Wyoming’s Senate Judiciary Committee has advanced a piece of legislation that would allow drug dealers to be charged with homicide if they sell to an individual who dies from a drug overdose.
Under current state law, a dealer may be charged with homicide if they sell a controlled substance to a minor who dies as a result. The new bill (SF0181) would amend existing law to allow homicide charges for dealers who sells “fentanyl, heroin or methamphetamine to another person and that person dies as a result,” the legislation’s text states.
If passed, the new law would take effect July 1, 2023.
“We’re seeing more adults (overdose) than we are minors,” state Sen. Wendy Schuler, the bill’s sponsor, reportedly said during the committee hearing on the bill.
“They know, if they’re an adult and they’re dealing, that this is a pretty serious thing,” Schuler added. “These drugs that we mention here are drugs that will kill other people.”
Between 2017 and 2021, 410 individuals in Wyoming died from drug overdoses, with the number of deaths from opioids like fentanyl increasing fourfold between 2018 and 2021.
Regionally, states also saw a spike in fentanyl seizures during the same time. Fentanyl seizures in Montana, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming rose from roughly 111,000 units to 1.8 million.
State law enforcement officers say they are nervous during fentanyl-related drug busts, citing increased danger.
“Obviously, they are even more dangerous for them when they are doing drug busts to come upon a certain amount of fentanyl versus in the old days with meth — it wasn’t quite as big of a personal health issue as Fentanyl is,” Schuler said, according to the Casper Star Tribune.
“This is kind of a culture where even the suppliers are probably, at least at the street level, I bet they’re addicts as well. It’s a cesspool kind of deal. For those people, I’m not sure what charging them with murder would achieve as far as a deterrent,” the Tribune quoted Sen. Cale Case as saying.
The Committee voted 4-1 to pass the bill to the full Senate floor.