Missouri stiffens penalties for fentanyl possession
Contention is rising between U.S. policymakers regarding a particular issue in the criminal justice system. It is well known that there is an opioid crisis in Missouri and throughout the country. Many believe that increased penalties for fentanyl possession will worsen the crisis and prevent people in need of substance abuse support from getting help.
Legislation in at least 28 states, including Missouri, has sought to increase minimum and maximum penalties for conviction of production, distribution or possession of fentanyl. Those who support such legislation hope that increased penalties will deter drug crimes, which might then help reduce the number of overdoses and fatalities associated with the drug.
Fatality rate for fentanyl overdose is high in Missouri
There are thousands of drug-related deaths in Missouri each year. A great percentage of these fatalities are opioid-related, including fentanyl overdoses. The National Center of Health Statistics listed more than 110,500 drug overdose fatalities throughout the country in 2022. More than 75,700 of those deaths involved fentanyl.
Does a crack-down on one drug resolve the opioid crisis or make it worse?
Those who oppose increased penalties for criminal convictions involving fentanyl say that these policies do not help resolve the opioid crisis. In fact, they say, it often makes it worse because people turn to alternative drugs when their “regular” supply is gone. A representative from Rice University who works on drug policy issues says that banning a drug does not help resolve the underlying issues that create an opioid crisis.
Several states have taken an alternative approach
In some states, such as North Carolina and California, officials are taking a different approach. Rather than increasing penalties for convictions of fentanyl crimes, they are initiating syringe exchange programs and providing public access to naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of a fentanyl overdose. New Hampshire is another state that has chosen to invest in drug addiction prevention.
More than $6 million in funds have gone toward substance abuse treatment and prevention programs in that state. Here in Missouri, Governor Mike Parson has decriminalized fentanyl testing strips in the hope of saving lives throughout the state.
Facing drug charges in Missouri
Facing drug charges regarding fentanyl possession in Missouri has serious implications. Penalties for first-degree drug trafficking in this state include a potential prison sentence of 30 years to life in some cases. Help is available for those struggling to overcome a substance abuse problem.
Support is also available for those taken into police custody for suspected drug crimes. Building a strong defense is a key factor to navigating the criminal justice system and trying to achieve a positive outcome in court.