Fentanyl legislation faces new questions as deadline looms
A "must-pass" measure to temporarily stiffen penalties for possession of small amounts of fentanyl remains in limbo ahead of the legislative session's adjournment Wednesday.
Why it matters: The legislation is a top priority for Democratic leaders who are facing election-year pressure to address rising crime rates and fentanyl overdose deaths, which are climbing at a faster rate in Colorado than most other states.
How it works: Right now, possession of less than 4 grams of fentanyl is a misdemeanor under a bipartisan law approved in 2019.
- The bill would make possession of 1 to 4 grams a felony for three years, starting in July. (A gram is about the weight of a standard paper clip.)
- A person who reports an emergency overdose would receive immunity from prosecution.
- The felony conviction could lead to jail time but not state prison, and could be erased after completion of the sentence.
What to watch: The Senate approved the legislation Friday after nine hours of debate, but made a significant change to remove language that would have required prosecutors to prove that a person knew the drug in their possession included fentanyl.
- The House must reconsider the amended bill — possibly as early as Monday — and Democratic lawmakers are hoping to remove the Republican-backed change.
- Such a move would take time and the clock is running short.
The big picture: The dispute reflects the deeply divided opinions on the issue.
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