A new, bipartisan statehouse bill that will be unveiled this week includes stiffer criminal penalties for those who distribute fentanyl — though not for those who merely possess it — and millions of dollars for life-saving Narcan and naloxone, test strips and jail-based drug treatment.
It is the product of a months-long process, as Gov. Jared Polis and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle entered this year’s legislative session vowing to reverse the state’s exponential rise in fentanyl overdose deaths and crack down on the merchants of this lethal opioid.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is more potent and more addictive than many other opioids. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is prescribed by doctors as a painkiller, but an influx of illegally-manufactured fentanyl has flooded the U.S. illegal drug market.
Illegal drug manufacturers mix fentanyl into other substances because it is cheaper to produce. That means people who think they’re buying other drugs, like oxycodone or heroin, can be unsuspectingly buying and consuming fentanyl, which can be fatal in tiny amounts. At least 767 people died of fentanyl overdoses in Colorado last year, though delays in state data reporting mean the real number is likely higher.
Polis, House Speaker Alec Garnett and others met with The Denver Post Wednesday morning to discuss the bill.