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Alabama Senate votes to toughen fentanyl penalties

The Alabama Senate on Tuesday moved to stiffen penalties for the distribution and trafficking of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid blamed for a spike in overdose deaths.

Posted: Jan 31, 2018 3:54 PM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama Senate on Tuesday moved to stiffen penalties for the distribution and trafficking of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid blamed for a spike in overdose deaths.

Senators voted 26-0 for the bill. The legislation now moves to the Alabama House of Representatives.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Cam Ward, said an influx of fentanyl in the state has proven lethal.

"It's being mixed with heroin and it's driving up your overdose deaths dramatically," Ward, R-Alabaster, said. "A very small amount, a grain of salt size, mixed in with heroin is deadly. It will kill you."

Ward said state penalties for fentanyl possession are now low, and the bill would make the penalties similar to those for heroin.

A person caught with one-half of a gram to one gram of fentanyl would face a possession with intent to distribute charge, a Class B felony punishable from two to 20 years in prison.

The bill creates mandatory minimum sentences for trafficking larger amounts 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. A person would get a life sentence, with the possibility of parole, if caught with eight grams or more.

Alabama followed in the footsteps of Florida which last year toughened penalties for fentanyl trafficking.

Although the bill passed without a dissenting vote, one senator expressed concerns about the mandatory sentences. Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, said mandatory sentences take away judges' ability to decide who deserves leniency and who should get "the hammer."

"Everybody just gets the hammer," Smitherman said.

The Senate delayed a vote on a separate bill that would have allowed the Alabama Department of Public Health, and local health departments to establish needle exchange programs to try to curb the spread of blood-borne diseases among drug users.

Sen. Bobby Singleton, the bill's sponsor, said a program, which seeks to get dirty and shared needles off the street, could reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis. The bill would not allow state funds to be used to purchase the syringes and needles, but health departments could partner with nonprofit groups.

"I think the state should do this just to save lives," Singleton, D-Greensboro, said. "If we can save one life, I think we are being successful," Singleton.

The Senate delayed a vote on the bill after one senator expressed concerns that a needle exchange program would encourage illegal drug use.

Singleton said he hopes to bring the bill back for a vote later this session.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 147382

Reported Deaths: 3763
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto9874101
Hinds9821198
Harrison6982110
Jackson6218119
Rankin5417102
Lee498495
Madison4711106
Forrest375086
Jones352488
Lauderdale3412145
Lafayette319749
Washington3153107
Lamar286349
Oktibbeha243562
Bolivar240884
Lowndes232864
Neshoba2189118
Panola218849
Marshall211950
Leflore203490
Pontotoc199128
Monroe196077
Sunflower191055
Lincoln187865
Warren174157
Tate166951
Union165325
Pike160958
Copiah160440
Yazoo152939
Scott151829
Itawamba151134
Coahoma149543
Pearl River149467
Alcorn148228
Simpson146353
Prentiss143730
Adams139250
Grenada138845
Leake133243
Holmes127861
Tippah123730
George123524
Covington120938
Winston120024
Hancock117639
Wayne116923
Marion114846
Attala111234
Tishomingo108742
Chickasaw106932
Newton104229
Tallahatchie96727
Clay89927
Clarke89153
Jasper81722
Walthall76028
Stone75214
Calhoun73713
Montgomery72825
Carroll71415
Lawrence70714
Yalobusha70527
Smith70316
Noxubee70017
Perry65826
Tunica60219
Greene59722
Claiborne57916
Jefferson Davis56017
Humphreys53119
Amite52714
Benton49017
Quitman4846
Webster42314
Kemper42118
Wilkinson38722
Jefferson34711
Franklin3345
Choctaw3157
Sharkey30817
Issaquena1144
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 241957

Reported Deaths: 3572
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson31809500
Mobile19651361
Madison12964148
Tuscaloosa12946154
Montgomery12263236
Shelby1016177
Baldwin857698
Lee771866
Morgan648050
Calhoun6215119
Etowah618266
Marshall618255
Houston522438
DeKalb480436
Cullman433442
Limestone418645
St. Clair413655
Elmore403764
Lauderdale396754
Walker3620111
Talladega347954
Jackson311723
Colbert306042
Blount287940
Autauga270442
Franklin250233
Coffee242015
Dale231754
Dallas225232
Russell22123
Chilton220638
Covington218034
Escambia197931
Chambers176450
Tallapoosa175491
Pike158114
Clarke157619
Marion137136
Winston131123
Lawrence126336
Pickens121618
Geneva12108
Marengo120224
Barbour117010
Bibb117017
Butler115341
Randolph101921
Cherokee101024
Hale96031
Clay91024
Washington90719
Fayette89316
Henry8526
Lowndes79429
Monroe78311
Cleburne76914
Macon73022
Crenshaw70930
Bullock69419
Conecuh68314
Perry6836
Lamar6678
Wilcox63118
Sumter57522
Greene42318
Choctaw42113
Coosa3414
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