Ala. lawmakers to debate mandatory minimum sentences for fentanyl

A bill to create mandatory minimum sentences for possession of fentanyl is scheduled for a committee meeting.
Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 5:07 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 20, 2023 at 7:08 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - This week, Alabama lawmakers will take on the deadly fentanyl crisis.­­ A bill to create mandatory minimum sentences for possession of the drug is scheduled for a committee meeting on Wednesday. This legislation is a priority for Republican representatives and Gov. Kay Ivey.

“I’m also urging you, our legislators, to pass House Bill 1 so I can sign it into law as soon as possible. By doing this, we will put any traffickers of this deadly drugs behind bars and keep them there,” Ivey said during her 2023 State of the State address.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Matt Simpson, R-Baldwin County, impacts a person who sells, makes, delivers or is knowingly in possession of fentanyl.

“Almost 80% of overdoses now are from fentanyl,” said Simpson. “It did not make sense to me why we wouldn’t have mandatory minimums.”

Just one gram fentanyl would mandate a sentence of three years, and up to eight grams of fentanyl would mean a life sentence.

Simpsons said this will save lives.

“This bill is going to punish the traffickers, the people who actually bring it into our community, and who are actually distributing it in our community, not the users,” he said.

Meanwhile, recovery advocates say harm reduction is more impactful. One of those is Mark Litvine, who is in long-term recovery and works at the R.O.S.S Recovery Center.

“We just got fentanyl test strips legalized,” said Litvine. “We need everyone to carry naloxone so they can prevent and reverse an overdose. We need some new programs in Alabama, syringe service, so we can prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.”

He said criminalization is not the solution.

“We can’t punish this problem away. It’s not going to solve this substance use epidemic that we’re in. It’s not going to help people get the help that they so desperately need,” said Litvine.

The R.O.S.S Recovery Center offers statewide help. Alabamians can call its 24/7 hotline at 844-307-1760.

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