DENVER, CO – Speaker Alec Garnett, Governor Jared Polis, Senators Brittany Pettersen and John Cooke, Representative Mike Lynch, Colorado district attorneys, public health experts and state lawmakers today unveiled comprehensive bipartisan legislation to combat the fentanyl crisis, remove fentanyl from Colorado communities and save lives.
“We are taking bold, comprehensive action to get fentanyl off our streets and save lives,” said Speaker Alec Garnett, D-Denver. “Working with Colorado’s district attorneys and public health experts, we’ve crafted a proposal that will crack down on the dealers peddling death in our communities and provide treatment options to individuals who need help. By focusing on the root causes of overdoses and going after dealers, this solution will stem the tide of fentanyl deaths in Colorado and protect our communities from this dangerous drug.”
“We are acting now to make Colorado neighborhoods and communities safer and we welcome the legislature’s action to save lives and address the dangers of fentanyl. The introduced bipartisan legislation, crafted in partnership with legislative leadership, law enforcement, district attorneys, and public health experts provides a better comprehensive solution that will save lives and improve public safety,” said Governor Jared Polis.
“Sheriffs and law enforcement need new tools to hold dealers accountable for distributing deadly fentanyl, and we’re going to give them what they need,” said Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley. “This bill treats fentanyl seriously and significantly strengthens the criminal penalties for dealing it. Going after the dealers will crack down on fentanyl and prevent more people from dying.”
"All over the state, Coloradans are struggling with substance use disorder, our kids are accidentally overdosing on pills, and families are trying as hard as they can to cope and keep on going. This is a heart-wrenching crisis that has traumatized families, destroyed lives and impacted entire communities, an epidemic that requires a thoughtful, forward-thinking and empathetic response,” said Senator Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, chair of the state’s Behavioral Health Transformational Task Force. “That’s why I spent the last several months working with behavioral health experts, law enforcement, community leaders and others on the Behavioral Health Task Force to help develop the evidence-based policy solutions presented in this bill. This legislation represents an important step forward to combat this crisis so we can get fentanyl off our streets, help people access care they need, and most importantly save lives.”
“I’m proud to sponsor legislation that will crack down on dealers of fentanyl and support our law enforcement as they work to stop these drugs from being sold on our streets,” said Rep. Mike Lynch, R-Wellington. “We’ve come together with a bipartisan solution because fentanyl doesn't care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican. This bill is going to prevent overdose deaths and hold dealers accountable when they spread death in our communities.”
Fentanyl is a drug unlike any other in its potency, lethality and addictiveness, and people across the country are dying from it at alarming rates. A comprehensive approach including both proven public health solutions and enhanced criminal penalties targeting dealers will save lives and get fentanyl off Colorado streets. This response was crafted in partnership with law enforcement, district attorneys and public health experts. The bill will strengthen criminal penalties for individuals distributing fentanyl to get dangerous dealers off Colorado streets. In line with other models for substance use convictions, the bill will also integrate mandatory SUD assessments and treatment into the state’s sentencing to ensure people get the treatment they need.
The bill focuses on compound fentanyl, which is fentanyl mixed with other drugs, and will provide law enforcement with additional tools to go after dealers while providing treatment options to individuals with an SUD. Individuals who are dealing fentanyl will face increased felony charges, and if the defendant has distributed any amount of fentanyl and it leads to someone’s death, they can be charged with a level one drug felony and face the drug code’s strongest penalties.
“I’m proud of the work of Speaker Garnett and Colorado’s district attorneys to craft this new approach that will crack down on fentanyl dealers, remove this deadly drug from our communities and save lives,” said Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein. “This crisis demands the comprehensive response we’ve developed, which will provide prosecutors with the tools needed to put dealers in prison and protect our communities. Through this legislation, we will be able to respond aggressively to dealers taking lives when distributing this deadly drug.”
The bill gives law enforcement tools to require treatment for individuals with a substance use disorder. Defendants in possession of any amount of fentanyl compound will be assessed for a substance use disorder and required to complete an education program developed by the Office of Behavioral Health in CDPHE. Individuals assessed to have a substance use disorder will have to complete mandatory treatment. This crisis also demands a robust public health approach that will address the root causes and keep people alive. Colorado will save lives by investing in effective public health and substance use prevention and treatment strategies and giving people the tools they need to protect themselves from this more deadly drug. The legislation directs $29 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to implement recommendations from the Behavioral Health Task Force on effective harm reduction strategies and increased access to substance use disorder treatment in the criminal justice system.
“Fentanyl is finding its way into nearly every street drug in Colorado, so we are taking a multi-pronged approach that focuses on public safety and public health,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver. “The public health strategy emphasizes education, treating addiction, and giving people the tools they need to protect themselves and others. We will increase penalties for drug dealers and deploy proven harm reduction strategies to save lives, help cut off the supply of fentanyl and get people the help they need without turning addicts into felons.”
While public awareness of fentanyl has risen, education campaigns that promote effective overdose prevention tools will save lives. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will develop, implement and maintain an ongoing statewide prevention and education campaign to address fentanyl education needs in the state, including the message that no amount of fentanyl is safe. The bill will also provide grants to develop and implement community-focused education campaigns on the dangers of fentanyl. The proposal makes opiate antagonists more widespread, which will help save lives by preventing overdoses.
“I am extremely supportive of, and grateful for, the bipartisan bill offered today to combat the fentanyl scourge that has plagued our communities,” said 19th Judicial District Attorney Michael Rourke. “This bill addresses both of the top priorities of Colorado’s prosecutors: increasing the penalties for the possession with intent to distribute, manufacture, dispense or sell this poison in our communities, and holding accountable those who peddle this poison when such conduct results in the death of our fellow citizens.”
“Throughout Colorado and across the nation, there have been many tragic deaths and countless lives ruined due to fentanyl,” said Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty. “We need greater penalties for those who seek to profit from this crisis by intending to distribute or selling fentanyl -- especially for those that lead to a death. Individuals who are poisoned by fentanyl deserve justice and this bill is a positive step forward. And, for those struggling with addiction, this proposal would provide resources and treatment that is long overdue in the State of Colorado. This crisis requires a comprehensive response and that’s what we see in this bill.”
“This bill is a crucial step forward in holding accountable those who distribute fentanyl in our community,” said 17th Judicial District Attorney Brian Mason. “Fentanyl is killing our kids. Drug distributors are selling this poison to unsuspecting buyers, leading to tragedy and death. This bill will give us important new tools to prosecute those who are selling this drug and will help us get more fentanyl off the streets.”
"In my more than 30 years in law enforcement, I've never seen a drug with such devastating consequences as illicit fentanyl. Too many Coloradans are dying from illegal use of this potent drug, and too many families are being changed forever. Every step we can take to reduce the presence of fentanyl on our streets is a step in the right direction,” said Stan Hilkey, CDPS Executive Director.