Opioids /

Governor Henry McMaster Signs New Fentanyl Punishments into Law

Fentanyl-related substances are now Schedule 1 controlled substances and those in possession of 28 grams or more will be sentenced to at least 25 year in prison

Governor Henry McMaster of South Carolina signed a new bill making trafficking fentanyl a felony. 

Overdose deaths from illicitly produced fentanyl have increased in South Carolina 35% between 2020 and 2021 and nationally by 23%.

“Through this legislation, we provide our law enforcement and prosecutors with valuable tools to keep these drug dealers behind bars, helping to combat the unprecedented flood of fentanyl crossing the Southern border and entering our communities,” said McMaster at a ceremony on Aug. 1. “Going forward, we must continue to crack down on criminals within South Carolina by strengthening our bond reform bill and enhancing penalties for illegal gun possession, effectively closing the revolving door once and for all.” 

The bill, H.3503, makes fentanyl-related substances a Schedule 1 controlled substance and established minimum sentences for those deemed to be trafficking the substance. In addition to making possession of two grains of fentanyl or a fentanyl substance a felony, the new law makes a first-time offense punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. A person convicted of a second-time offense can be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and a $7,500 fine while a third offense can result in as much as 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The legislation is designed to target high-level drug dealers, per WSPA. Knowingly selling, manufacturing, cultivating, delivering, or purchasing fentanyl as well as transporting fentanyl into South Carolina is a felony. 

According to the governor’s office:

A first offense for trafficking four to 14 grams of fentanyl is punishable by at least seven years and up to 25 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. A second or subsequent offense is punishable by a mandatory term of 25 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. For 14 to up to 28 grams, any offense is punishable by a mandatory term of 25 years in prison and a $200,000 fine. For 28 grams or more, any offense is punishable by a mandatory term of at least 25 years and up to 40 years in prison and a $200,000 fine.

Other state officials celebrated the new law, which they hope will sharply decrease the effects of illicit fentanyl on their state.

Jimmy Richardson, the state’s 15th Circuit Solicitor, called the law “overdue.” He pointed out that, prior to its enactment, the most serious charge that could be brought against someone in possession of large quantities of fentanyl was possession with intent to distribute or distribution.

“It would be hard to say that we are winning the war on drugs, but at least you’ve got the tools to fight now,” Richardson told WPDE. “The logic is that you, or I, or anybody, can do that much drug at one sitting without killing us. So, it’s gotta be for sale. Trafficking is simply possession. You don’t have to show that you’re selling it. You just show that there’s such a big amount that it’s gotta be for sale.”

“When people start going away for a long time for fentanyl, you will see curbed behavior,” he added. “Other states have already had it, so it’s well past due for us.”

State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel said H.3503 “ensures that the traffickers who are peddling this poison in South Carolina are subject to serious prison sentences, including mandatory minimums.”

“I hope this legislation serves as a deterrent to anyone who seeks to profit from this deadly drug,” said Keel. “We must do everything we can to reduce supply and save lives.”

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