GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KREX) — The deadly drug fentanyl continues to impact the lives of Coloradan’s and those across the nation.
Colorado law enforcement are beefing up their fight against the drug with hopes of a new felony charge.
According to an analysis from the Common Sense Institute in 2020, Colorado experienced 540 fentanyl related deaths, that’s a 143% increase from 2019. In 2021, there were more than 800 fentanyl related deaths, up 260% from 2019. Now Colorado’s law officials worry if we don’t act now, the numbers will only get worse.
With the rising increase in fentanyl related deaths, experts at the Common Sense Institute say, we are losing nearly three Coloradan’s a day to fentanyl, “Look fentanyl kills period, more than any other drug that we have seen in a long time,” George Brauchler, CSI Criminal Justice Felow says.
It’s not just the spike in deaths that has officials worried, its the lack of penalties geared towards fentanyl dealers, “People are dying on our streets literally every single day because of this drug and we need to act now to get this legislation passed as soon as we can,” Dan Rubinstein, Mesa County District Attorney says.
DA Rubinstein is fighting for a felony charge, carrying a minimum of 12 to 32 years in prison, “because the felony incentivizes treatment, I don’t want people convicted of a felony, I want the underlying problem addressed,” Rubinstein says, “And again its not that making it a felony is an effort to try and felonize addicts or an attempt to just lock them up and throw away the key,” Brauchler says.
Law enforcement officials believe, incentivizing treatment could lead drug dealers and users through the gates of sobriety and onto the path to sustained treatment, rehabilitation and recovery, “And when that tool is gone all you are doing is taking an addict who has just played fentanyl roulette and survived it and sending them right back onto the street where there is more fentanyl for them to kill themselves with,” Brauchler says.
Members of the Colorado Association of Chief’s of Police see first hand, the impact of crime and increased fentanyl use, “Law enforcement is working tirelessly everyday to make up lost ground in our law enforcement recruiting and retention efforts that were decimated after policy changes made in 2020,” Basal Chief, Gerg Knott, President of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police says.
Police members continue to fight current legislation and stand firm on a zero tolerance policy on possession of fentanyl, “Reversal of the lenient policies passed in 2019 is the only answer to ensure interruption of the current path that we are on,” Brauchler says.
The Colorado Association of Chief’s of Police say, they’re going after a greater level of funding for treatment and are requesting no probation for dealers trying to distribute or distributions resulting in death.
They also believe a felony charge for possession of fentanyl in any amount is appropriate because, one pill can, has and will continue to kill.