Twenty years into a nationwide opioid crisis, state governments are taking matters into their own hands to deal with fentanyl, a drug 50 to 100 times as potent as morphine or heroin, reports the Associated Press. The drug once again was in the public spotlight with a case of five West Point cadets overdosing in Florida and five others being found dead from overdosing in a Denver apartment. A major danger of fentanyl is that it can be mixed with other drugs like cocaine and users will not realize that they are taking it. Democratic and Republican officials are calling for different types of measures, with Republicans like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey calling for securing the border to stem the drug tide, while other states are taking a "harm-reduction" approach.
Starting in 2021, 19 states have considered legislation to combat the epidemic. West Virginia introduced a bill to make fentanyl testing strips legal. Another bill would increase penalties for trafficking the drug. California Assemblywoman Janet Nguyen introduced a similar measure that failed. She said her focus is on reducing the quantity of fentanyl-laced pills. A bipartisan group of legislators in Colorado have an approach that both increases penalties for dealers and increases availability of drug education programs and naloxone, a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose. Maritza Perez of the Drug Policy Alliance is skeptical that more criminalization is needed to deal with the crisis. “We have the largest incarceration rate in the entire world and we’re also setting records in terms of overdose deaths,” she said.