AL Senate Approves Stiffer Fentanyl Penalties

Jan 31, 2018

Demonstration of lethal doses of heroin (L), fentanyl (C) and carfentanil (R).
Credit Kensington Police Service

The Alabama Senate has voted in favor of tougher penalties for distributing fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.

Senators voted unanimously in favor of the bill yesterday. It now moves to the Alabama House of Representatives for debate.

Sen. Cam Ward, the bill's sponsor, said an influx of fentanyl, which is significantly more powerful than heroin, is causing a spike in overdose deaths. Ward says state penalties for fentanyl possession are disproportionately low, and the new bill would make the penalties similar to those for heroin.

The bill also creates mandatory minimum sentences for trafficking fentanyl. 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 and those caught with four grams or more would serve 25 years.

While the measure passed unanimously, one senator expressed concerns about those mandatory minimum sentences. Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, says mandatory sentences take away judges' ability to decide who deserves leniency and who should get "the hammer."