Fentanyl bill passed legislative session last night

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) – With just over an hour to spare, the Colorado State Legislature has passed HB22-1326, the fentanyl bill.

House and Senate lawmakers wrangled over the bill until 10:50 p.m., when the vote finally passed.

“I’m so grateful to our two local reps, Rep Soper and Rep Rich, who fought for us until the very end and made sure something happened,” District Attorney Dan Rubinstein said. . “It was really on the edge because the legislative session ended at midnight and if it hadn’t passed by midnight it would have been dead.”

In 2019, the legislature made changes to the fentanyl laws, which reduced the penalty for possession of fentanyl to a misdemeanor for anything less than four grams. Rubinstein said the original new bill said nothing about possession and many lawmakers wanted to change that.

Rubinstein said earlier in the legislative session that the House had made an amendment to the bill to reduce the amount of possession to one gram of fentanyl on the condition that the person found in its possession must know that it is was fentanyl.

“The problem with that is that unless someone tells us they know what’s in the drug, there’s really no way to prove it,” Rubinstein said. “In the situation where someone confesses, it’s usually the defendants that we want to reward and make a better offer because they’re cooperative and more likely to be successful in treatment. So punishing them for their cooperation is usually not not in the interests of justice.

Ultimately, the Senate stripped the bill of the amendment and sent it back to the chamber, which created the biggest point of contention between lawmakers according to Rubinstein.

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

“Under the distribution causing death law, if a person distributes fentanyl and it results in death, it’s a strict liability offense,” Rubinstein said. “They would face potential consequences depending on the amount dispensed.”

Rubinstein said that currently cases have had to be sent to Federal Court due to the fact that it is federal law and due to the increase in the use of fentanyl, the Court federal government was unable to accommodate the request. He said that under the new bill, cases will be able to be handled at a more local level.

“We expect that impact on local law enforcement and locally on the district attorney’s office,” Rubinstein said. “We will begin to investigate these at the state level. Many of these surveys are time consuming. They require going into people’s phones and trying to figure out what the distribution flow was, the pipeline of how the drugs got to the end user who overdosed.

The bill will go into effect as soon as Governor Jared Polis signs it and indicates he will sign it.

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