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Legislature introduces major bill to prevent fentanyl overdoses, increase criminal penalties

A major bill intended to decrease the number of fentanyl overdose deaths and increase criminal penalties related to fentanyl has been introduced in the General Assembly.

The Fentanyl Accountability and Prevention Bill (HB 22-1326) has provisions to make naloxone more available, improve substance use and overdose prevention and education, expand harm reduction services, and to improve treatment services for incarcerated people.

The bill would also increase criminal penalties for possessing, manufacturing, or distributing “synthetic opiates,” which include fentanyl and carfentanil.

The legislation comes as Colorado has seen an alarming increase in fentanyl-related overdoses, with fentanyl or its derivatives appearing in illicitly manufactured pills and in drugs such as methamphetamine and cocaine. The surge of drug overdoses is part of our nation’s addiction crisis that fuels the demand for illicit opioids and other substances.

Key Provisions

HB 22-1326 is very long, coming in at 43 pages, and would make many changes to state laws and policies or create new ones. Anyone interested should consult the General Assembly’s website or the text of the bill itself. The Consortium has posted a synopsis, and here are some key provisions:

  • Increasing the penalties associated with “synthetic opiates,” i.e. fentanyl and carfentanil (see the bill for details)
  • Requiring courts to order substance use assessments and fentanyl education
  • Expanding the state standing orders to allow more organizations to distribute naloxone
  • Appropriating $20 million to the Colorado Opiate Antagonist Bulk Purchase Fund and expands eligible entities that can get and distribute naloxone
  • Expanding medication-assisted treatment programs in jails
  • Expanding liability from civil damages for administration of opiate antagonist and for furnishing “non-laboratory synthetic opiate detection tests, e.g. fentanyl test strips
  • Creating a fentanyl prevention and education campaign
  • Appropriating $6 million for the for the Harm Reduction Grant Program

There’s a lot more in the bill, so please read the Consortium’s synopsis and the bill summary on the legislature’s website.

Opportunities to Testify

Anyone interested in HB 22-1326 can testify as the legislature considers the bill. The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear the bill on Tuesday, April 12, at 1:30 p.m. In addition to testifying in person, people can testify remotely or submit written testimony. To register to testify in person or online and to submit written testimony, go to the legislature’s website. You also can sign up for in-person testimony at the hearing.