Much-needed legislation that steps up the penalties for peddling illegal drugs that cause death might be all but dead itself, given the Democrats aligned against it.
It’s a disgraceful development at the hands of the Legislature’s ruling party.
As reported this week by our news affiliate Colorado Politics, Senate Bill 23-109 makes it a level one felony when anyone “sells, dispenses, distributes, or otherwise transfers any quantity of a controlled substance” that results in someone’s death.
The bill applies to any compound in which the controlled substance turns up in any amount. And it was expanded in a committee hearing Monday to include Schedule II as well as Schedule I controlled substances.
It would be a boon to law enforcement in its efforts to stem Colorado’s epidemic of overdoses from illegal drugs such as fentanyl, heroin and meth. The bill would close a loophole in the law that lets some drug dealers skirt serious consequences due to inconsistent penalties for different lethal drugs.
Right now, if two or more such drugs are in the same mix that kills a user, the dealer’s lawyers can claim it’s unclear which substance caused the death. Raising the penalty to the same, higher level for all drugs that result in death will moot that dilemma. That will make it easier for prosecutors to take more dealers off the streets before they kill again.
It’s an important bill, and you might think it has a chance of making it to the governor’s desk. Yes, even in a Legislature that — having drunk the Kool-Aid of the “justice reform” and “harm reduction” dogma — had decriminalized simple possession of hard drugs in 2019.
After all, SB 109 has bipartisan sponsors — Democratic state Sen. Kyle Mullica of Thornton and Republican state Sen. Byron Pelton of Sterling — as well as the support of the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council.
Yet, as Colorado Politics reported, the bill is at best on life support. It barely passed this week’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing thanks only to the support of Democratic state Sen. Dylan Roberts of Eagle — whose day job is as a deputy DA in Eagle county.
Democratic Senate President Steve Fenberg and fellow Democratic Senate Majority Leader Dominick Moreno have said they are “no” votes on the bill. Same goes for Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Julie Gonzales, who voted against the bill in committee.
What could possibly motivate their opposition? One argument offered against SB 109 in its committee hearing was that drug dealers don’t necessarily mean to kill the victims when they sell them deadly drugs. No, we’re not being facetious.
One woman unabashedly testified to committee members that in the “drug culture … we are extremely kind and caring to one another.” When she one day shared drugs with a friend — who then overdosed and died — it was because, “I didn’t want her to be left out.”
“I promise you, I was not trying to murder my friend,” she told lawmakers. “I was sharing from the goodness of my heart.”
The upshot of such testimony was supposed to be that prison wouldn’t help an addict. But as any DA will tell you, people don’t do prison time merely for addiction and haven’t in recent history.
The point of SB 109 is to go after the pushers and put them behind bars. That way, they can’t be “kind and caring” to even more addicts — and kill them.
Denver Gazette Editorial Board
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