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Idaho close to implementing mandatory fentanyl sentences

Blue fentanyl pills lined up in groups of 10.
Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office
This undated photo provided by the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office shows fentanyl pills. Authorities say they've arrested Ryan Gaston, a man in a Cleveland suburb after seizing more than 900 fentanyl pills marked liked tablets of the less-potent opiate oxycodone. The Cuyahoga County medical examiner said that lookalike pills were likely to blame for some of the county's 19 fentanyl-related overdose deaths in January 2016. (Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office via AP)

Idaho is poised to implement mandatory minimum sentences for fentanyl traffickers ranging from three years to life in prison.

State senators easily passed a bill to do so Thursday, mostly along party lines. Sen. Dan Foreman (R-Viola) is among supporters saying mandatory sentences deter drug dealers from coming here.

“If you were to think that Idaho’s tough laws against trafficking in illegal drugs are not a deterrent, you would be 100% dead wrong,” Foreman said.

“So, it’s time for the gloves to come off and we need to continue to send the message to these people that prey on our citizens and sell this terrible product for financial gain. The message needs to be, ‘Stay the heck out of Idaho.’”

But opponents said personal users could get labeled as traffickers based on how the bill is written. Prosecutors would count the total weight of any mixture of fentanyl – even if there were only trace amounts of the drug.

That concerned Sen. Phil Hart (R-Kellogg), the only Republican to join all six Democrats in voting against the legislation.

“I believe if we pass this bill, we’re going to put so many more people in prison we’re going to be here two or three years from now funding a new prison.”

House lawmakers previously passed the bill, also largely along party lines. It now goes to Gov. Brad Little’s desk for consideration.

Copyright 2024 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.

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