DENVER, Colo.– The House of Representatives advanced a legislative bill to combat Colorado’s fentanyl crisis to save lives on April 22.
Speaker of the House Alec Garnett, Representative Mike Lynch, Senator Brittany Pettersen and Senator John Cooke are primary sponsors of HB22-1326.
“This legislation will give law enforcement the tools they need to crack down on fentanyl dealers to get this dangerous drug off our streets,” stated Rep. Lynch.
The legislative bill focuses on compound fentanyl, which is fentanyl mixed with additional drugs or substances. Law enforcement will be provided with more resources to go after dealers and acquire treatment for individuals with substance use disorder (SUD).
“We are seeing unprecedented numbers of overdose deaths in Colorado,” stated Mesa County District Attorney, Dan Rubinstein. “The fentanyl crisis demands an aggressive response that will hold dealers accountable.”
The bill’s proven public health strategy targets fentanyl distributors by strengthening criminal penalties. Dealers will face the drug code’s strongest penalties if distribution of any amount leads to death.
“This is an aggressive response that acknowledges the deadliness of this drug and… will expand access to treatment, make Narcan and test strips widely available, and create a robust education and awareness campaign to save lives,” said Speaker Garnett.
Those in possession of any amount of fentanyl will be assed for a substance use disorder and required to complete an education program developed by the Office of Behavioral Health of the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPH). If assessed as having SUD, they will need to complete mandatory treatment as part of the state’s sentencing guidelines.
“Far too many Colorado families have experienced the devastating pain of losing a loved one to fentanyl,” said, Speaker Garnett.
The Appropriations Committee amended the bill to include a “wobbler” provision. This allows individuals who have completed treatment to reduce felony charges to a misdemeanor.
Supplementary amendments adopted on the floor include the creation of a grant fund and encourage law enforcement agencies to pursue investigations related to fentanyl poisonings. Increased funding for the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, crisis stabilization centers, detoxification centers, and expanding Medication-Assisted Treatment in jails are also components of the bill.
Funds provided by the American Rescue Plan Act will direct $29 million to implement harm reduction strategies and increased access to SUD treatment for those in the criminal justice system as recommended by the Behavioral Health Task Force.
“Fentanyl doesn’t care if you are a Republican or a Democrat; people are dying in every community in our state,” said Rep. Lynch. “This bill is a comprehensive solution that will save lives and prevent fentanyl deaths.”