S.C. lawmakers move forward with legislation fighting fentanyl
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina lawmakers are fast-tracking a push to criminalize trafficking fentanyl in South Carolina – where it’s currently not a law.
On Tuesday, that bill got second reading in the House of Representatives – essentially passing it – with one more formal vote on the bill needed Thursday.
The 96 House members who voted for the fentanyl trafficking bill say it’ll save lives.
But 21 members voted against it – and they claim this bill won’t do that.
Under the legislation, people convicted for the first time of possessing at least 4 grams of drugs containing fentanyl face a mandatory minimum of seven years in prison.
Those caught with larger quantities could be behind bars for up to 40 years.
The bill got unanimous support among House Republicans.
“We need to make sure that those who are trafficking drugs and fentanyl that are harming the children of this state are going to be treated harshly and swiftly,” said Rep. Murrell Smith, speaker of the House.
But some Democrats argued this bill would create more problems than it solves – saying mandatory minimum sentences have not been proven to deter people from dealing and using drugs.
House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford argued the bill should have distinguished between pills containing fentanyl – which people with substance-use disorders may possess without realizing they contain fentanyl – and powder fentanyl – which he says would mark criminals who are trafficking the drug.
“We have to delineate between those persons that are unreasonably snared into this process and those dealers. I’m after the dealers. They’re not. What they’re after is a bumper sticker, and until we stop the bumper-sticker politics, until we move on to the science and the data that tells us what makes a difference, all we’re doing in this case is putting lives in jeopardy,” said Rep. Todd Rutherford, House minority leader.
Bills to criminalize fentanyl trafficking and create a charge of fentanyl-induced homicide both advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, so they now await debate on the Senate floor.
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