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Lawmakers consider measures to crack down on fentanyl in Nevada

A small bag of straight fentanyl on display at the State Crime Lab at the Ohio Attorney General's headquarters of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation in 2015. Nebraska police say they seized 118 pounds of fentanyl in April.
The Washington Post/Getty Images
A small bag of straight fentanyl on display at the State Crime Lab at the Ohio Attorney General's headquarters of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation in 2015.

State lawmakers are considering a set of measures meant to crack down on fentanyl trafficking in Nevada. The proposals would increase penalties for trafficking fentanyl without putting new restrictions on prescription varieties of the drug.

Under Senate Bills 35 and 343, possessing four grams of fentanyl will count as a low-level trafficking offense punishable with up to six years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Democratic Attorney General Aaron Ford helped draft the legislation. He said the intent of the measures is not to throw people struggling with addiction into prison.

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"This is not a moral crusade against drug use," he said. "It is a crusade to save the lives of our fellow Nevadans. We cannot stand idly by and do nothing. This drug is dangerous."

Opponents of the measures, including Athar Haseebullah of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, argues the bills do little to treat the root causes of addiction.

"We view these bills as reminiscent of a failed policy that came out of the war on drugs three decades ago. They won't stop the flow or impact the supply of fentanyl," he said.

If approved, the measure will likely get the support of Republican Governor Joe Lombardo, who called for stricter penalties for fentanyl trafficking during his State of the State address earlier this year.

Estimates suggest more than 100,000 people have died from drug overdoses annually since 2020. Two-thirds of them are fentanyl-related.

Paul serves as KNPR's producer and reporter in Northern Nevada. Based in Reno, Paul specializes in covering state government and the legislature.