Polis neglects to mention new fentanyl bill doesn’t live up to his own standards

For Immediate Release
March 23, 2022

DENVER, CO – A new fentanyl bill sponsored by House Speaker Alec Garnett falls well short of changes Governor Polis has said he wanted to make to the 2019 law that downgraded fentanyl possession from a felony to a misdemeanor.

The bill unveiled on Wednesday would increase some penalties for fentanyl dealers, but not for possession according to Colorado Public Radio:

The bill will not include harsher punishments for simple possession of fentanyl, despite arguments over a controversial 2019 law that downgraded the charges for small amounts of most drugs to a misdemeanor.

Both the Governor’s office and Polis himself have consistently said there should be harsher sentences for fentanyl possession.

Colorado Sun:

“When somebody has enough fentanyl to kill 1,000 people or 2,000 people, absolutely we need additional criminal sanctions to make sure that they can be detained and prevented from harming Coloradans,” Polis said. [Emphasis added]

Colorado Politics:

“Fentanyl is devastating our communities,” Conor Cahill, the governor’s spokesman, said. “Governor Polis believes the General Assembly needs to act on a comprehensive approach to address the dangers of fentanyl including increased criminal penalties. While there is no guarantee that increased criminal penalties would have prevented this tragedy, we clearly need real consequences and harsher sentences for those involved with dealing or possessing enough fentanyl to kill people. This drug is unlike any our country has seen before, people are taking it without even realizing they are doing so, which is why we urgently need comprehensive solutions that includes harsher penalties and also addresses the unique nature of this crisis and to do more to bring awareness to the problem.” [Emphasis added]

Colorado law enforcement has said Polis’s 2019 law has made it more difficult to prosecute suspected dealers because it is difficult to prove intent when someone is caught possessing fentanyl.

This new bill does little to address that problem.

Polis praised the measure in a statement to Colorado Public Radio, and did not appear to acknowledge that it lacked the very changes relating to possession he said the General Assembly should make.

Since 2019 Colorado has experienced the second highest growth rate of fentanyl deaths in the entire country, with deaths soaring from 147 in 2019 to 709 deaths in 2021.

If you are covering the new fentanyl bill please consider the following quote from Compass Colorado.

Polis’s refusal to acknowledge this fentanyl bill falls well short of his own standards shows he still isn’t serious about confronting this crisis,” said Compass Colorado Executive Director Kyle Kohli.

The Governor needs to find some political courage and tell his allies to increase criminal penalties for possession of this deadly drug.”