Fentanyl has become a cloud of horror that has hung over our culture and society for years now. It causes an unnervingly high number of overdoses annually and is continuing to do so at an extremely alarming rate. Colorado has started a law in which they hope to combat this epidemic by coming down hard on those supplying the masses with the deadly drug. However, their law is not quite panning out as planned and is turning out to be quite useless in the end. The state lawmakers and district attorneys are scrambling to find a resolution to the issue.
In Colorado alone, approximately 2,000 people have passed from Fentanyl overdoses since 2021.
Because of the death toll from fentanyl growing exponentially, state lawmakers created a new law in 2022 that targeted dealers. The law allowed prosecutors to prosecute fentanyl dealers with felonies if someone they supplied fentanyl to died of an overdose. So, what exactly is the issue that arose from this law? Well, not every fentanyl overdose is ruled as a fentanyl overdose.
Coroners’ offices around the state are unable to rule a cause of death as a fentanyl overdose if other drugs are in the deceased’s system. This creates a problem in terms of prosecuting the dealer as the death must be ruled as a fentanyl overdose for the charge to be ruled a felony. The most unfortunate part of this, oftentimes a fentanyl overdose does involve other drugs in the victim’s system. Typically, when someone has fentanyl in their system, it is not because they intended to take it. When people take fentanyl, it is usually because they are taking another drug, such as heroin or even cocaine, and the supplier had cut that drug with fentanyl.
This becomes a complicated issue because the other drugs could have led to an overdose as well, but those do require higher dosages than fentanyl. So, a tiny bit of fentanyl could be responsible for the overdose, but given the other drugs in the system, there is no real way to prove that.
Denver’s District Attorney, Beth McCann, released a statement regarding this division between what coroners are doing and what they need to be told to prosecute.
McCann said that the only way around this separation is for coroners to further research and include in court statements that the fentanyl levels in the system were high enough to lead to an overdose, regardless of the other drugs in the system. Coroners have spoken against this saying this would be them tailoring their examination to fit the prosecution’s needs, which goes against their oath and protocol.