Colorado looks to crackdown on deadly fentanyl and treat addiction
Colorado lawmakers are attempting to walk a fine line when it comes to fentanyl.
What's happening: A much-anticipated bipartisan bill draft that debuted Wednesday would impose tougher penalties on people who distribute the deadly drug and require addiction treatment for those who use the substance.
- "It's a tough issue. People are dying from fentanyl overdoses," state Rep. Leslie Herod (D-Denver) told the Colorado Sun. But "incarceration is not going to get us out of this."
Why it matters: The death rate for fentanyl in Colorado is spiking — faster than most other states — and many users are overdosing when they unknowingly ingest the synthetic opioid with other drugs.
- Preliminary state data shows fentanyl deaths increased more than 40% in 2021.
The intrigue: A 2019 law that made possessing less than 4 grams a misdemeanor remains unchanged.
- Republicans opposed to the law say it exacerbated the drug's proliferation, and they are making it a top political issue in the 2022 elections.
The other side: A coalition of 60 organizations, including those working to overhaul the criminal justice system, recently urged lawmakers in a letter to not go too far, saying "we do not believe people with an addiction should be made felons for simple drug possession."
What to know: The measure would make distribution of fentanyl that leads to a death a class 1 felony. Likewise, it increases penalties for those convicted of selling the drug.
Yes, but: It also would require people arrested for possession undergo drug treatment evaluations and expand medication-assisted treatment in county jails
- $20 million would get set aside to expand access to Naloxone, the opioid-reversal drug, and more money would go toward an overdose education campaign and distribution of fentanyl test strips.
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