A bill announced Tuesday would significantly reduce the minimum possession threshold for fentanyl to trigger mandatory minimum sentences, the latest target of lawmakers as they seek to take action against the opioid crisis.
H.R. 6243 was officially introduced last month, but Republican Rep. Daniel Donovan announced the legislation Tuesday at a press conference in New York. The measure would lower the amount of fentanyl a person could have to trigger a 10- or 20-year mandatory minimum prison term for high-level, first-time or repeat offenders from 400 grams to 20 grams, and lower the fentanyl quantity that triggers a 5- or 10-year mandatory minimum prison term for low-level, first-time or repeat offenders from 40 grams to 2 grams.
The bill also seeks to limit access to pill presses, by making it illegal to mail them to unauthorized users, seeking to stop legitimate online auctioneers from offering such items online.
“The national conversation on substance abuse has focused intensely on addiction as a mental health crisis for which treatment is preferable to prison, and that’s a good thing. But we can’t lose sight of the criminal justice system’s role in addressing the drug epidemic,” Donovan said. “Drug traffickers aren’t just giving addicts enough of the proverbial rope to hang themselves — traffickers are intentionally lacing their products with synthetic opioids like fentanyl.”
Lawmakers have recently targeted fentanyl, a deadly drug which can be used to make counterfeit prescription pills or lace other drugs, such as heroin. Drug officials have said they’ve seen a spike in fentanyl around the country.
The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act became law earlier this year, which authorized millions of dollars in treatment and prevention programs to address the rising number of opioid and heroin deaths and abuse in the country. But Donovan said a legislative approach to addressing the opioid crisis must also address the legal system.
“Society can’t cure this dark branch of the drug problem with medically-assisted treatment and therapy; only law enforcement agents and judges can meet the threat,” he said. “It’s important to distinguish between those struggling with addiction and the traffickers who enable them. The former group requires intensive treatment and years of hard work to stay clean. The latter group must answer for the deaths they’ve caused.”