Missouri lawmaker hoping state adds fentanyl trafficking as a felony

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KY3/KSPR) -- According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, there were more than 1,600 opioid related deaths in Missouri in 2018. Many of those deaths were attributed to fentanyl.

"The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency is seizing 100 pounds of fentanyl across the country a week," said Brad Thielemier with the Missouri State Troopers Association. "They're estimating that's only 10% of what's coming across the country."

"The best way, the only way we can really, effectively combat that is if we have the proper tools," Tim Lohmar, St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney.

Rep Nick Schroer, R-O'Fallon, believes a bill he's reintroduced this year could be that tool.

"If it wasn't for stripping a couple of bills from the house committee substitute last year, this would've been on the governor's desk, and would be law now," Schroer said during a hearing on the bill Monday afternoon.

Schroer wants the state to add the trafficking of more than 10 milligrams of fentanyl as a Class B Felony charge. That would carry between five to 15 years in prison.

Trafficking more than 20 milligrams would be a Class A felony - meaning 10 to 30 years behind bars.

"I think this is something that gives us the tools along the same lines as trafficking heroin, trafficking cocaine, methamphetamine. This puts it in the same category," Lohmar added.

Schroer says this will not affect those who are legally prescribed the painkiller, as those doses are much smaller than what is used for trafficking.

Not everyone is convinced increasing jail time for those who intentionally illegally distribute the often deadly drug will help fight the opioid epidemic.

"I do agree there needs to be a stiff penalty, though," said Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis. "I guess, what I'm trying to understand is what is the appropriate number and why? How does 30 years help us compared to 15 years?"

The Missouri State Troopers Association, Sheriff's Association, and Association of Prosecuting Attorneys all expressed support of the bill. There was no testimony against it during Monday's hearing.

Read the original version of this article at www.ky3.com.