Fentanyl has flooded Colorado. Fatal doses involving the drug have skyrocketed since 2015, and last year, more than 800 Coloradans died after ingesting the drug, according to state data. Read the latest news coverage and editorials about how the state is tackling the crisis here. 

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"People are fed up with the pain this new and dangerous drug is inflicting," Polis said shortly before signing House Bill 22-1326. "There are thousands of victims who deserve justice." 

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District attorneys are offering divergent interpretations of the compromise that broke the gridlock and facilitated passage of the legislative response to Colorado's fentanyl crisis, with some insisting the new language burdens prosecutors, while others maintain it does the contrary.

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Two months after it was introduced, House Bill 1326 – officially dubbed the  Fentanyl Accountability And Prevention Act – squeaked out of the legislature at the last minute Wednesday night. It wound through two House and two Senate committees and a conference committee, became the subject of scores of amendments and was one of the most controversial bills of the session.

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Colorado's legislators, who for months disagreed on a strategy to confront the state's spiraling fentanyl crisis, finally settled on a compromise and approved this year's most contentious legislation with barely more than an hour to spare before they're constitutionally required to end the 2022 session. 

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Legislators this week advanced proposals that seek to offer property tax relief and provide an early TABOR refund, saying the measures would help residents at a time of soaring inflation and spiking energy prices.

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The Colorado legislature's struggle on how to deal with fentanyl possession took another turn Thursday, when the state Senate decided that prosecutors shouldn't have to prove that users knowingly possessed the drug in order to charge them with a felony. 

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When asked why he supports a zero tolerance approach to simple possession, Marshall Weaver said when he was selling heroin and meth in 2019, the General Assembly passed the law that made possession of less than 4 grams a misdemeanor.

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The legislature's sweeping attempt to confront Colorado's worsening fentanyl crisis is slated for an early morning hearing in the House Appropriations Committee on Friday.

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Fentanyl has fueled a spiraling overdose crisis in Colorado and across the United States. The drug's increasingly ubiquitous presence, both in the illicit market overall and in other substances, has permanently changed the drug supply, officials say.

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A panel of Colorado legislators advanced a bill Wednesday that increases criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of fentanyl, a middle-of-the-road approach between factions who want harsher penalties and those who decry going back to the tough-on-crime strategy of the past.

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Possession of less than 4 grams of fentanyl is still a misdemeanor under the legislation. However, under the draft, any possession of fentanyl with an intent to distribute, no matter how much, is a minimum class two drug felony.

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The highest priority of our justice system should be to protect the public. Whether or not the state can “prevent addiction” in the process can be important, but the first order of business is to keep everyone else safe from the drugs that addicts use and, often enough, wind up peddling to support their own habit.

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Among the lesser known parts of the public safety package being pushed by Gov. Jared Polis and Democratic lawmakers is ramping up the capabilities of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and more than doubling the force's size in three years, particularly as law enforcement agencies grapple with a fentanyl-induced overdose crisis.

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As Colorado legislators, lobbyists, public health officials and law enforcement seek ways to confront the fentanyl crisis, efforts are complicated by the synthetic opioid's deadly and increasingly omnipresent nature and differing opinions on how the next phase of the drug war should be waged.

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Left to their own accord, the Democratic lawmakers who run the two chambers will continue to split hairs in hopes of brokering a compromise with the holdouts in their ranks who insist on coddling criminals. Evidently, even the legislative leadership doesn’t get how urgently this crisis needs to be addressed.

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Never mind the well-founded argument by law enforcement that many purportedly “victimless” addicts of fentanyl and other drugs have lengthy criminal records including for violent crimes. Just consider the absurdity of writing a ticket to someone in possession of enough fentanyl to poison thousands of unsuspecting people.

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The decriminalization was touted as a stride for “justice reform.” It was in fact a free pass for career drug dealers. It also was a slap in the face to every parent who ever received a knock on their door informing them their child had died of an overdose.