Attorney General Phil Weiser, law enforcement partners and state legislators call for more resources, penalties to combat the rising threat of fentanyl in Colorado
Dec. 16, 2021 (DENVER)—Attorney General Phil Weiser today said he will work with state legislators and law enforcement officials in the next legislative session on comprehensive legislation to address the rising threat of fentanyl in the state, including securing more resources for law enforcement. These resources would be used to break up fentanyl trafficking rings, disrupt drug supply chains through multijurisdictional task forces, and educate the public on the dangers of fentanyl to prevent accidental overdoses and save lives.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, 1,477 Coloradans died from drug overdoses in 2020—mostly from opioids. This is the largest number of overdose deaths on record for a single year, and the state is on track to surpass that record in 2021. One major factor that is now driving overdose deaths is fentanyl, which is being marketed as counterfeit prescription pills or being laced with other drugs. The number of overdoses on account of fentanyl rose 50% from 2019 to 2020.
Weiser said law enforcement agencies need the resources and laws to investigate and address this rising threat.
“The rising threat of fentanyl in our communities is alarming and we need comprehensive, thoughtful solutions to win this fight and save lives. I am committed to working with law enforcement, public health advocates, state legislators, and others on a comprehensive plan to tackle this challenge, which includes greater enforcement efforts, public health and addiction services, more funding for police and sheriffs, and public awareness and education to save lives,” Weiser said at a press conference today.
Joining the attorney general at the press conference were parents whose son died from an accidental overdose, state legislators, district attorneys and law enforcement officials who are on the frontlines fighting the fentanyl crisis. Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said that drug task forces need additional resources to respond to the problem fentanyl presents.
“Nationally, 100,000 victims died from a drug overdose. Here in Colorado, we’ve had almost a 50% increase in fentanyl-related overdose deaths. Our drug taskforces to date are working diligently and seized over 360,000 dosage units of fentanyl—any one of those dosages could be fatal. We cannot stop this progress and we must work together to save our citizens,” Spurlock said.
Weiser also called on the state legislature to take a hard look at drug dealing and possession laws as they relate to fentanyl. Many existing laws were made at a time when there was less understanding of fentanyl, or how deadly even the smallest amount of the substance can be.
“Dealers selling counterfeit pills with fentanyl in our communities are peddling substances that can kill. The legislature should increase penalties for those that deliberately hand off fentanyl and fentanyl-laced drugs to unsuspecting users, resulting in accidental overdoses,” said Weiser. “Four grams of fentanyl is not the same as four grams of cocaine or any other illegal drug. The legislature should re-evaluate whether a felony charge is appropriate for possessing this amount of fentanyl.”
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