Illinois lawmakers have introduced legislation that would create the crime of fentanyl trafficking, aiming to enhance sentencing and penalties against dealers who sell fentanyl.
The Illinois House last April narrowly passed a measure that lowered the criminal penalties for what they call low-level possession of drugs like fentanyl and heroin.
Misdemeanors under the bill include possession of less than five grams of cocaine, less than five pills of most scheduled III substances, such as Xanax and Valium, and less than 40 pills of oxycodone and similar painkillers.
Sponsors said the bill was about ensuring offenders get medical treatment for drug addiction rather than a jail cell. The measure has not advanced in the Illinois Senate.
Requests for comment from two of the bill’s House sponsors, state Rep. Anna Stava-Murray, D-Downers Grove, and state Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford, were not answered.
State Rep. Chris Bos, R-Lake Zurich, said it does not take much fentanyl to do harm.
“Five milligrams of fentanyl is lethal and deadly. We can’t have that be just a simple misdemeanor,” Bos said during a news conference.
Republicans have introduced legislation, House Bill 5808, designed to allow state attorneys to prosecute fentanyl dealers.
“If you are going out of your way to put fentanyl into other drugs, putting it into vitamins, putting it in something that looks like candy, putting into something that is rainbow colored, you clearly have an intent to distribute, to target, to harm,” said state Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst.
Mazzochi, who introduced the bill, said her legislation would create a crime called fentanyl trafficking and target the use of candy, regular prescription drugs and other vehicles for fentanyl distribution.
“Fentanyl and its analogs are fifty times more powerful than heroin, and a mere two milligram amount can be lethal,” Mazzochi said.
“Traffickers are mixing or packaging fentanyl to look like candy, gummies, or different prescription medications to skirt the law and target innocent users. HB 5808 delineates that and gives prosecutors stronger tools that they need to combat a leading source of drug deaths in our county and state,” she said.
The bill says, “in addition to any other penalties imposed for the manufacture or delivery, or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver, not less than 6 years and not more than 30 years shall be imposed for any amount of carfentanil in excess of 150 milligrams that is stored or transmitted as a powder, blotter paper, tablet, patch, or spray if the product fails to include a warning label and an accompanying rescue level of naloxone.”
“We shouldn’t be making it easier for drug dealers to avoid prosecution, so they can save some money on production, distribution, or using sleight of hand to get users an opioid fix. This drug wreaks havoc in Illinois communities and destroys lives. We should be sending a message to the people who deal it, not letting them off the hook,” Mazzochi said.
GOP lawmakers hope to take up the measure during the fall veto session, which begins the week after the November 8 election.
The Center Square and Lake and McHenry County Scanner both contributed to this report.