Grand Junction Daily Sentinel: Drug law needs fentanyl change – coloradopolitics.com

A 2019 Colorado law that made possession of up to 4 grams of almost all drugs for personal use a misdemeanor needs to be changed to allow prosecutors to pursue harsher penalties for possession of the deadly drug fentanyl.
House Bill 1263 changed the penalties for drug possession with broad bipartisan support. The idea behind the bill makes sense. The problem of drug addiction is better solved by medical professionals than law enforcement, but the one-size-fits-all 4-gram rule overlooked an obvious fact — some drugs are more potent than others.
In the case of fentanyl it is far more potent. In fact, it is so potent that 4 grams of it could kill up to 2,000 people, according to reporting by The Colorado Sun. Governor Jared Polis, to his credit, has recognized this error.
“When somebody has enough fentanyl to kill 1,000 people or 2,000 people, absolutely we need additional criminal sanctions to make sure that they can be detained and prevented from harming Coloradans,” Polis said.
Where 4 grams might be reasonable to assume is enough for personal usage from other illicit drugs, that is not the case for fentanyl. That is distribution level, as Andrea Thomas, one of the founders of the nonprofit Voices for Awareness who lost her daughter to an illicit oxycodone pill laced with fentanyl in 2018, said, according to reporting by The Daily Sentinel.
“Lawmakers need to revisit the 4-gram law,” Thomas said. “Four grams is a distributor amount, not a personal use amount. Fentanyl is all street drugs today. It makes the other drugs listed in this law almost obsolete compared to fentanyl.”
This is dangerous, deadly stuff and needs to be treated with harsh legal consequences for the people distributing it.
Drug overdoses from fentanyl, which are already far too high, have increased over the last year. Last year, 803 people died from fentanyl across Colorado, up from 520 in 2020, according to data from the state health department.
This is a serious problem and needs to be addressed.
“We need to make distributors accountable for their actions,” Thomas said. “Lawmakers can see this now, and we need to address this problem now. It is better to admit the mistake and move forward in an effort to save lives.”
We agree. We think the legislature was right to lower the penalty for simply possessing drugs for personal use, but it needs to go back and alter the law to account for the potency of the various drugs covered under the 2019 law.
It should certainly do this in the case of fentanyl, but it should also look at other drugs. Is 4 grams of heroin equivalent to 4 grams of oxycodone? It should determine a reasonable amount for each individual drug and set the law there, rather than opt for the blanket 4-gram rule it has now.
As it stands, the 4-gram rule actually imposes looser penalties the stronger the drug, because you can deal more doses out of 4 grams of fentanyl than you can out of 4 grams of heroin. This is backwards and the legislature needs to act to remedy the situation.
Grand Junction Daily Sentinel editorial board
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