Louisiana lawmaker proposes life sentence for fentanyl distribution
On Monday, a Louisiana legislator introduced a bill that would increase the criminal penalties for distributing fentanyl to the same level as murder. Republican Crowley state Rep. John Stefanski proposed that the penalty should be life in prison at hard labor without parole or probation, which he believes would be the harshest in the nation.
Stefanski, who is also running for Louisiana Attorney General, stated that it is time for the consequences for distributing fentanyl to match the harm it causes.
The proposed House Bill 90 would make the life without parole penalty effective for anyone convicted of possessing more than 28 grams of fentanyl. Stefanski consulted with sheriffs and district attorneys to determine the amount that would trigger the most severe penalties. He hopes that the harsh penalty will have a similar effect to the penalty for heroin, which had a chilling effect on drug dealers who stopped handling it.
Fentanyl drug-related deaths in Louisiana have increased from fewer than 200 statewide in 2017 to nearly 1,000 in 2021. Stefanski stated that with this legislation, the state is sending a message to drug traffickers that Louisiana has a zero-tolerance policy concerning fentanyl. The penalty for possession or distribution of more than 28 grams of fentanyl will now be equivalent to that of a violent crime like homicide: life in prison. The Louisiana Department of Health warns that there has been an alarming increase in the availability of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl, which has resulted in tragic fatal overdoses.