Proposed bill to toughen penalties for fentanyl dealers

SHELBY COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - A bill working its way through the state legislature would stiffen the penalties for people dealing and distributing fentanyl.

The bill was passed unanimously by the Senate on Tuesday and now goes to the House.

Under the legislation, a person convicted of having more than one gram would get a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in prison. Anyone caught with two or more grams would serve 10 years.

Those caught with four grams or more would serve 25 years.

"The bill is to equip law enforcement and prosecutors with the ability to put the dealers behind bars that are preying on those that are suffering from addiction and abuse," said Lt. Clay Hammac, Commander of the Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Under the current law, those caught selling fentanyl likely won't get much jail time.

"We really cannot charge them with anything other than a simple possession charge, which would be the equivalent of having an illegal prescription pill in your pocket," said Hammac.

Keep in mind one gram of fentanyl, roughly the equivalent to the size of a sugar packet, has the ability to kill hundreds of people.

"What we are interested in is going after, unapologetically, those drug suppliers and dealers," said Hammac.

"This is one part of the puzzle," said Senator Cam Ward, the bill's sponsor.

Ward added there is still the issue of people who are addicted to the drug, which he says is a larger societal issue.

"I think cracking down on the drug dealers, the traffickers, is good. But that person who has an addiction, we've got to figure out as a society how do we provide more formal treatment programs so they can get in there. Many of them want help but they have an addiction and can't get rid of it," said Ward.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.

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