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Fentanyl bill passed on last night of legislative session

Fentanyl Bill Passes on Last Night of Legislative Session
Published: May. 12, 2022 at 7:27 PM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) - With barely more than an hour to spare, the Colorado state legislature passed HB22-1326, the fentanyl bill.

Lawmakers in the house and senate argued back and forth about the bill until 10:50 pm, when the vote finally went through.

“I’m very grateful to our two local representatives, Rep. Soper and Rep. Rich who fought for us to the very end and made sure something did pass,” said district attorney Dan Rubinstein. “It was really down to the wire because the legislative session ended at midnight and if it didn’t pass by midnight, it would have died.”

Back in 2019, the legislature made changes to fentanyl laws, which reduced the penalty for possessing fentanyl to a misdemeanor for anything under four grams. Rubinstein said the original new bill said nothing about possession and there were many lawmakers who wanted to change that.

Rubinstein said earlier in the legislative session the house made an amendment to the bill to reduce the possession amount to one gram of fentanyl with the condition that the person found possessing it would have to have known that it was fentanyl.

“The problem with that is, that unless somebody confesses to us that they know what’s in the drug, there’s really no way to prove that,” said Rubinstein. “In the situation where somebody confesses, those are typically the defendants we want to reward and give a better offer to because they’re being cooperative and more likely to succeed in treatment. So punishing them for their cooperation is really not typically in the interest of justice.”

In the end, the senate stripped the bill of the amendment and sent it back to the house, which created the biggest point of contention between lawmakers according to Rubinstein.

One of the biggest things for the new bill, Rubinstein said is the distribution resulting in death.

“Under the distribution resulting in death statute, if a person distributes fentanyl and it does result in death, it’s a strict liability offense,” said Rubinstein. “They would be facing potential consequences depending on the quantity they distributed.”

Rubinstein said currently, cases have had to be sent to the federal court due to the fact that it’s a federal statute and due to the increase in fentanyl use, the federal court hasn’t been able to keep up with demand. He said under the new bill cases will be able to be handled on a more local level.

“We expect this impact to local law enforcement and locally the D.A.’s office,” said Rubinstein. “We’re going to start investigating these at a state level. A lot of these investigations are very time intensive. They require getting into people’s phones and trying to figure out what the distribution stream was, the pipeline of how the drugs got to the ultimate user who overdosed.”

The bill will go into effect as soon as Gov. Jared Polis signs it and he has indicated he will sign it.

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