Iowa Legislature Sends Governor Her Bill to Crack Down on Fentanyl Dealers

(Radio Iowa) The legislature has approved the governor’s recommendation that sentences be hiked for fentanyl-related crimes. The bill passed the House four weeks ago on a 91-to-three and last (Monday) night the Senate approved it — 41-to-nine. Those convicted of a crime with 50 or more grams of fentanyl or a related substance could be sentenced to up to 50 years in prison. Senator Jeff Reichman (RIKE-man), a Republican from Montrose, says fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and up to 100 times stronger than morphine.

“In 2022, the (Drug Enforcement Agency) seized enough fentanyl to kill every single American,” Reichman says. Fentanyl is now the leading cause of overdoses in America and opioid-involved deaths in Iowa have increase by 45 percent since 2019.

“Sadly the majority of these deaths are accidental because of counterfeit prescription pills that are being laced with lethal overdoses,” Reichman says. Senator Janice Weiner, a Democrat from Iowa City, voted against the bill.

“Increasing penalties feels great,” Weiner said. “We do it a lot, but it doesn’t really help Iowans who are struggling with opioid use disorder.” Weiner says fentanyl is a scourge and there’s already another synthetic opioid showing up in American cities. The bill significantly increases the penalty for making or supplying a drug that leads to a fatal overdose. Weiner questions the effectiveness of that, too.

“I really would love for us to focus on helping people with the disorder because putting someone behind bars after someone’s already dead isn’t really going to help them.” The bill also would let more Iowans distribute doses of naloxone, the drug that can reverse an opioid overdose. State data indicates at least 235 Iowans died of opioid-related causes last year.