DENVER – Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid designed to treat severe pain. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) estimates that it is 100 times more potent than morphine.
Illicit fentanyl is mixed with counterfeit prescription pills, killing Coloradans at an alarming rate. Following a drug seizure in Colorado this week where 110,000 counterfeit pills cut with fentanyl were seized, a Front Range district attorney is calling for a review of drug laws.
DEA Denver Field Division Acting Special Agent David Olesky said a year ago that a large seizure would have been between 5,000 and 10,000 counterfeit pills containing fentanyl. “Last year, or FY ’21 for the DEA, we seized 9.5 million pills. This is the equivalent of exercise 2019 and exercise 20 combined, ”Olesky said.
DEA tests revealed that two out of five counterfeit pills typically seized during these surgeries contain lethal doses of fentanyl. Thus, the 110,000 pills taken from the streets during this investigation potentially saved 40,000 lives, according to Olesky.
Colorado drug seizure, district attorney calls for tougher fentanyl laws
The state’s health department website reports that fentanyl-related overdoses have more than doubled each of the past three years, reaching 540 deaths last year. As of August 2021, there had been 612 drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl.
“Colorado’s drug laws, especially around fentanyl, are outdated. Right now, four grams of fentanyl is a level one drug offense, to have it in your possession. Now what does it take to kill someone? Two milligrams. Think about that NutraSweet packet that you put in your coffee every morning. Just two little specks of it can kill someone. So what we allow people to wear as a misdemeanor is actually enough to kill over a thousand people. And that allows drug distributors to potentially walk around with too much stuff and then face almost no consequences, ”said 18th Judicial District District Attorney John Kellner.
Kellner is referring to a Colorado law that came into effect in March 2020. The offense level legislation for possession of controlled substances, which was HB19-1263, made possession of four grams or less of the substance. controlled listed in Schedule I or II a misdemeanor charge, rather than a felony. Fentanyl is a Schedule II controlled substance.
The law does not apply to certain drugs, such as those in the bath salt or date rape drug categories.
“We need an enhancer, much like the federal government has done, for the distribution of death-causing drugs. And what it would do is, it would increase the penalty for the people peddling this poison so that when they do that and someone dies, they go to jail for a long time. Because the message needs to be sent that we will not tolerate this in Colorado, ”Kellner said.
On July 25 of this year, two young lives were killed by fentanyl. Matt Riviere said his sons Andrew and Stephen lived together in an apartment in Colorado Springs. Andrew was 21 and Stephen was 19, and the two brothers were still close. “I really miss my kids, especially as the holidays approach,” Rivière said.
Riviere said his sons took what they believed to be oxycodone, but it was actually a counterfeit pill that contained fentanyl. The two died side by side in their apartment, according to Rivière. “I don’t watch my boys while they overdose. They poisoned themselves. And these drug dealers, the manufacturers, should be responsible for their deaths. They should be charged with murder, ”Rivière said.
Rivière shared her son’s stories, hoping to save more lives and potentially change a law. “These kids just don’t know what they’re doing. In some ways, they are innocent. They try something, they make bad choices. But it’s a and it’s done … It’s a life that will never be brought back. And it’s going to be a life that will be missed forever, ”said Rivière.
Supporters of the law have said it protects non-violent drug offenders from harsh penalties, giving them a better chance to get their lives back on track.
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