Bill on mandatory sentences for fentanyl possession is tabled in the Idaho Legislature
A bill that would add mandatory sentencing minimums for fentanyl possession in Idaho did not make it past committee Thursday.
Law enforcement, legal experts, activists and community members testified in front of the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee for more than two hours on Thursday.
Law enforcement representatives were the biggest supporters of the bill introduced by Rep. Chris Allgood. The proposal would make possession of seven grams of a substance containing fentanyl punishable with a minimum of three years in prison, while possessing 28 grams would lead to an automatic 10-year sentence at minimum.
“It's killing Idahoans, including our children, on an exponentially increasing basis,” said Republican Sen. Todd Lakey as he testified in support of the bill. “It's injuring our law enforcement officers that have to deal with it. Fentanyl is the worst of the worst.”
Fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs, and users can unknowingly consume the synthetic opioid, which is 100 times more potent than morphine. The Department of Health and Welfare said opioid overdoses in Idaho have more than doubled since 2020.
Erica Marshall from the Idaho Justice Project testified against the proposal, saying the current trafficking statute has no proven track record of reducing drug use or drug deaths.
“But it's filling our prisons with nonviolent offenders, labeling them as traffickers for life with no requirement that they were actually even selling drugs,” she said,
Lars Trautman of the Texas Public Policy foundation also advocated for judicial discretion.
“The federal government and the majority of states with mandatory drug laws have some sort of safety valve or other provision that allows for some exceptions to let that judge back in and consider the individual, not just the drug weight,” he said.
The committee voted to not send the bill to the floor, pending further discussion.