Legislature Moves to Increase Penalties for Fentanyl Possession

A committee of the Colorado House of Representatives recently passed a bill that is intended to increase the penalties for possession of the illegal drug fentanyl. The bill that was passed by the House Judiciary Committee contains a number of provisions that relate to penalties for the possession and sale of other drugs, as well.

Recent Legislative Action

In a recent session, the House committee passed an amendment to a pending bill that made knowing possession of 1 gram or more of fentanyl or any compound containing fentanyl a felony. The previous threshold was 4 grams. The committee also passed an amendment shortening the time that a person convicted of fentanyl possession would be required to wait until court records of the trial and conviction could be sealed after the person completed their supervised release.

Testimony for and Against

The committee’s actions followed 13 hours of public testimony and 3 hours of committee debate concerning the proposed amendments. Observers estimated that half of the testimony came from members of families who had lost a member to fentanyl poisoning or had a member who recovered from fentanyl addiction. Several physicians who specialize in addiction treatment testified that harsher penalties for possession of the drug were unlikely to be successful; most of the doctors endorsed treatment programs over increased criminal penalties.

The amendments that were passed by the committee will not become part of the pending legislation, known as HB22-1326, until the bill is approved by the full House. Other parts of the main bill contain provisions increasing services for people who suffer from fentanyl addiction, and many educational and prevention measures. These provisions were passed in part to lessen opposition to the provisions that stiffened punishment for fentanyl possession.

Defense Against Drug Charges

It’s unclear what form the bill may take should it eventually become law. In any event, facing charges for fentanyl possession will entail the possibility of serious penalties for anyone convicted of this crime. Consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney can provide an analysis of the evidence, creation of potential defense strategies, and where appropriate the negotiation of an acceptable plea agreement.

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