New Bill to Crack Down on Fentanyl Peddlers Passes Arizona State Senate

A new bill from State Senator Anthony Kern (R-Glendale) aims to bring harsher punishments on those who traffic fentanyl passed through the Senate floor Tuesday with bipartisan support.

“The numbers speak for itself. Trafficking fentanyl is a deadly issue in our state that is only growing and tearing families apart,” said Kern. “These lethal pills are infiltrating our schools and communities. As a result, young and innocent people are losing their lives.”

Should it be enacted, Kern’s bill, Senate Bill (SB) 1029, would make a small change to Arizona law regarding murders. Anyone who causes the death of another person over the course of a narcotics offense involving the possession for sale, manufacture, or transportation of fentanyl would be guilty of first-degree murder. However, the bill specifies that in order for a person to commit the murder, their offense must be committed” as part of the person’s association and participation in managing, directing, supervising, or financing the conduct of a criminal enterprise with the intent to promote or further the enterprise’s criminal objectives.”

Under current Arizona law, first-degree murder is a class 1 felony, the highest degree of felony. If sentenced, the punishment for the murder is life imprisonment or death.

To emphasize the importance of this bill, Kern mentioned an incident that recently occurred in Apache Junction. As reported by U.S. News, a toddler swallowed a fentanyl pill on January 25th and was taken to the hospital by his family. Although the boy was treated with the overdose medication Narcan, he passed away the next day. Apache Junction Police started an investigation of the incident following the child’s death.

“We need to put an end to these tragic deaths, which is why drug dealers should be held accountable with strict charges of murder,” Kern said.

While the bill did pass with bipartisan support, only one Democrat, State Senator Catherine Miranda (D-Phoenix), stepped across the party line to vote in the bill’s favor. Other Democrats voiced concerns with the bill, such as State Senator Christine Marsh (D-Phoenix), who argued that the way to combat the fentanyl crisis is through better education and rehabilitation for addicts rather than bringing harsher punishments against the smugglers.

However, Kern emphasized that the bill’s target is those associated with the cartels, which are people driven by money and cannot be “educated into stopping the murder they are committing.” Senate Majority Leader Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu) also spoke in the bill’s favor, passionately arguing that the state has to draw the line against the opioid crisis somewhere and creating more severe punishments for fentanyl dealers is a necessary part of that.

“Enough is enough. How many people have to die before everybody wakes up,” Borrelli said.

While Kern said he wished more Democrat colleagues joined in voting yes, the bill still passed by a 17 to 13 vote. It will now move to the House for a vote, and if it passes there, the Governor’s desk for a final decision.

Moreover, at the national level, Arizona Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ-09) is attempting to get a similar law passed for the county as a whole. He reintroduced House Rule (HR) 1212 in February, which would punish those who sell fentanyl with severe punishments.

“We must get tough on those criminals that are contributing to this drug crisis. My legislation would punish anyone who knowingly traffics fentanyl with the death penalty or life in prison,” said Gosar.

The Arizona Department of Health Services has officially recorded 12 opioid overdose deaths in the state as of March 2nd.

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Anthony Kern” by Anthony Kern. Background Photo “Arizona Capitol” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. 




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