Individuals charged with fentanyl trafficking in Alabama will face harsher penalties, including potentially spending life in prison.
Governor Kay Ivey signed the bill following a unanimous vote from the Alabama Senate, which did not debate the policy.
“Combatting this deadly drug will continue to be a top priority for our Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, and I will do everything in my power to stop this drug from being a killer in Alabama,” Ivey said in a statement on April 6.
Under the new law, fentanyl trafficking carries minimum sentences determined by the weight of the substance. Anyone convicted of possession of eight grams or more of fentanyl can be sentenced to life imprisonment and a $750,000 fine. Possession of one to two grams of the substance has a mandatory three-year sentence and a fine of at least $50,000. Possession of two to four grams carries a sentence of 10 years and a $100,000 fine while four to eight grams have a 25-year sentence and a $500,000 fine.
“A second conviction of the same offense would incur an additional penalty of five years of incarceration in a state corrections facility, which is not subject to suspension or probation. A third conviction would merit a sentence of 10 years imprisonment,” reported 1819 News.
Ivey commended Representative Matt Simpson for his “leadership on this issue.”
“I want public awareness to understand how dangerous fentanyl is,” Simpson said of the HB 1, per AL.com. “Just how deadly it is in our community and the fact that people are dying every day from fentanyl overdoses. That it’s a serious offense and it’s something that we need to address as a Legislature.”
“If you’re dealing fentanyl, if you’re trafficking fentanyl in our community and our state, we’re going to come after you and there’s going to be teeth to the bill and you’re going to do time in prison,” said Simpson. He has also called for increased efforts to educate the public about the dangers of the substance.
Illicitly produced fentanyl caused 1,069 deaths in Alabama in 2021 – 463 more than in 2020.
The synthetic opioid has been linked to a sharp increase in overdoses across the country.
“People both knowingly consume fentanyl and other synthetic opioids and unknowingly consume them when they are mixed into or sold as other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, or counterfeit pill,” reports the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Because fentanyl is about 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and a lethal dose of fentanyl can be very small, using a drug that has been contaminated with or replaced by fentanyl can greatly increase one’s risk of overdose.”
Between 2019 and 2020, 39 states reported an increase in drug overdoses due to synthetic opioids.
“Fentanyl is the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered,” said Drug Enforcement Administrator Anne Milgram in a statement. “Fentanyl is everywhere. From large metropolitan areas to rural America, no community is safe from this poison.”
“The entire nation should take note of what we accomplished today in Alabama. Our state is on the frontlines combatting the fentanyl crisis,” Ivery wrote on Twitter.
✍️: HB1 is officially signed into law.
The entire nation should take note of what we accomplished today in Alabama. Our state is on the frontlines combatting the fentanyl crisis. #alpolitics pic.twitter.com/5vN6jclWCn
— Governor Kay Ivey (@GovernorKayIvey) April 6, 2023