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House bill targets fentanyl trafficking

by EMILY BONSANT
Hagadone News Network | February 12, 2023 1:00 AM

Proposed legislation would amend current Idaho law relating to penalties for heroin and would add a minimum mandatory sentencing statute for those convicted of trafficking fentanyl.

House Bill 67 would amend Idaho Code so trafficking statutes are applied to "those participating in drug distribution and sales instead of those engaging solely in personal use,” the Statement of Purpose reads.

The bill would raise the amount of heroin required for a trafficking charge from two grams to seven in the bottom tier and from 10 grams to 14 grams in the middle tier. Prison time for the middle tier would be lowered from 10 years to five. The top tier of prison time would be lowered from 15 years to 10.

In the bill's statement of purpose, legislators said trafficking heroin could go down as the requirement for heroin trafficking raises.

This addition to the bill would make it a felony and charge those with “trafficking” who are found to be in possession of seven or more grams of fentanyl or any mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of fentanyl.

For charges, being in possession of seven grams but less than 14 grams, or in pills 100 but less than 250 pills, would be a mandatory minimum of three years imprisonment and $10,000 in fines. For medium tier with 14 grams or more, but less than 28 grams, or in pill form 250 but fewer than 500, would result in a sentence of a mandatory minimum fixed of five years imprisonment and $15,000 in fines.

For the top tier, if there are 28 grams or more, or 500 or more in pill form, the sentence would be a mandatory minimum fixed term of 10 years and fines of $25,000.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Originally, pharmaceutical fentanyl was developed for pain management treatment of cancer patients and applied through a patch on the skin. However, in the past two years, the drug has been the cause of numerous overdoses and deaths across the Idaho Panhandle and the country.

According to the CDC, teen drug overdose deaths more than doubled from 2019 to 2021 with 2,231 teen overdoses; 1,871 of which were caused by fentanyl. Only 32 states in the U.S. officially reported teen drug overdose deaths.

Fentanyl deaths and overdoses have popped up in the news nationally, regionally and locally over the past few years.

In October 2022, a Cusick, Wash., man was sentenced to more than 12 years in federal prison for selling the pill that led to the death of a Sandpoint teen in 2020.

In Bonners Ferry in February and December 2022, Bonners Ferry police officers responded to possible fentanyl overdoses.

In July 2022, a Spokane man faced multiple drug charges after he was found in possession of approximately 600 fentanyl pills and other substances near the Boundary County Fairgrounds.

The Idaho Chiefs of Police, Idaho Sheriffs Association and the Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Association are all in favor of House Bill 67.