Friday, June 21, 2024

One pill can kill: Supporting House Bill 406

by JIM WOODWARD / Contributing Writer
| February 6, 2024 1:00 AM

Mandatory Minimum Prison Sentencing Deters Criminals: Idaho Legislators Should Support House Bill 406 In The Fight Against Fentanyl

Idaho is at the front lines of the war against drugs. The primary enemy? Fentanyl. This synthetic opioid is one of the most lethal drugs we have ever seen. Idaho State Police Director Colonel Kedrick Wills recently reported that overdose deaths are now the leading cause of death in Idaho, having doubled from 2020 to 2021. At the same time, our U.S. Attorney for Idaho stated that six out of every 10 fentanyl pills contain a fatal dose. 

The worst part is that fentanyl is here in Idaho, and it has arrived in a landslide. From 2020 to 2021, Idaho law enforcement confiscated 125,000 fentanyl pills; that is a 562% increase in just one year. In 2022, there were 270 opioid-related deaths in Idaho; 132 of those deaths were confirmed as deaths from fentanyl.

2023 saw even more alarming statistics. In June, officers made their largest bust in Idaho, seizing 30,000 fentanyl pills. The woman arrested was a main fentanyl distributor for a large drug trafficking organization that has direct ties to Mexico. In August, a multi-state investigation between Idaho and Oregon law enforcement led to the discovery of 21,000 fentanyl pills and 531 grams of fentanyl powder. Twenty-five people were arrested and charged. In December of 2023, a major statewide bust took place. An Idaho Falls Police investigation led to the seizure of 5,300 fentanyl pills in Idaho Falls, 400 pills in Pocatello, and 4800 more fentanyl pills in Coeur d’Alene. The investigation continued into Montana. 

The numbers speak for themselves. These statistics from our law enforcement officers, who are in the trenches of this drug war every single day, are not the full story. Toxicology screenings are costly, so not every Idaho coroner runs a report for each overdose death. Which means, more than likely, the numbers surrounding fentanyl are much higher. But do we really need higher death numbers to know that we must take a stand against those bringing this dangerous drug into Idaho’s borders? No. What we need is to enact legislation that will deter fentanyl traffickers from the Gem State by adding fentanyl to our existing mandatory minimum sentencing laws. What we need is House Bill 406. 

I support HB 406 and I hope the Idaho legislature will act in the best interests of Idahoans by passing HB 406 into law. We are not facing a crisis; we are living in a crisis. One micro dose of fentanyl can kill, and drug traffickers and dealers are finding it easy to peddle their poison on our streets because our fentanyl laws are simply not strong enough. HB 406 sends a strong message that if you are looking to profit from our communities’ harm, then you will pay the price. 

This is not legislation to punish those who are struggling with addiction. Instead, this bill is a way to help stop the flow of a deadly narcotic. It is a legal update that will only affect those who distribute fentanyl or who bring fentanyl across our state lines, whether from the dangerous southern border or the liberal borders to our west. 

Northern Idaho is my home, but it does not matter which part of the state you live in — fentanyl traffickers are in your town also. It is the duty of our elected officials to ensure all possible deterrents are in place for the protection of our families, our communities, and our Idaho. 

Idaho’s message must be clear: if you traffic fentanyl in our state, you will be put behind bars.

Jim Woodward is a former state senator for Legislative District 1, a small business owner, a retired Navy nuclear submariner, and an Idahoan.