How Deadly is Fentanyl and Should Idaho Criminalize Fentanyl Trafficking?

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BOISE, IDAHO – Legislation to criminalize the trafficking of fentanyl and to add the drug to the list of controlled substances that carry minimum sentences is being hotly debated in the Judiciary, Rules, and Administration Committee of the Idaho House of Representatives.

Currently, the trafficking of fentanyl is not illegal in Idaho, although the possession of fentanyl is a criminal offense.

House Bill 406 (HB406) is legislation that would amend Idaho 37-2732 by adding a new section to provide for the crime of trafficking in fentanyl and penalties for the crime. It would also amend Idaho 37-2734 to provide for the death of drug-induced homicide and penalties for the crime.

According to the statement of purpose for HB406, “This statute is not meant to capture the personal user. It is intended to make clear the punishment for those who choose to manufacture, deliver, or bring into the state amounts of fentanyl that meet the quantities listed in this bill. It also adds provisions for the crime of drug induced homicide and the corresponding punishment.”

Some of the controversy comes from the scoring and write-up on the bill that was released by the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF). According to Parrish Miller of IFF, the proposed legislation would “impose harsh minimum sentences for possessing fentanyl, including small amounts of substances containing only trace amounts of fentanyl.” The IFF gave the bill a negative four, asserting it unreasonably expands government control and refers to trafficking of fentanyl a “victimless crime.”

The current bill language defines the minimum trafficking standard in fentanyl as four grams or 100 pills. This is not a “trace amount” of fentanyl. Depending on the potency of the fentanyl, less than two milligrams can be a lethal dose. A milligram is 0.001 grams, and to get a better understanding of the amount consider that a deadly dose of fentanyl would appear like five to seven grains of salt. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, fentanyl is approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin.

At this time, Idaho only criminalizes the trafficking of four controlled substances – marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin – and provides mandatory sentences for trafficking these four drugs. The only other crime in Idaho that provides for a mandatory sentence is first degree murder.

“The problem of fentanyl is absolutely one of the biggest issues facing our county, our residents, and law enforcement,” stated Kootenai County Sheriff Bob Norris. “Our fentanyl related overdoses have tripled in the last four years.”

The Idaho Sheriffs’ Association, which is composed of Idaho’s forty-four elected sheriffs, voted unanimously in support of HB406.