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GOP senators propose tougher penalties against fentanyl dealers

Sally Turner and Sue Rezin
Blueroomstream.com
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State Sens. Sally Turner, left, and Sue Rezin have proposed a measure calling for tougher penalties against those who sell fentanyl.

Illinois saw a nearly 3,000% increase in synthetic opioid overdose deaths over the last decade. Most of those deaths are tied to fentanyl. It’s 50 times more lethal than heroin.

Two Republican lawmakers and McLean County's top prosecutor want to go harder after those who sell fentanyl.

McLean County State's Attorney Erika Reynolds says drug-induced homicide is the one homicide you can commit thousands of miles away. She recalls a recent overdose death in the county. Reynolds said prosecutors wanted to charge the supplier with drug-induced homicide, but they could not prove who the supplier was without cooperation, even though the suspected supplier had just been charged with dealing fentanyl.

“Frustratingly, the supplier was probation-eligible on those offenses and without cooperation could not be tied directly to the drug-induced homicide,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds noted anything less than 15 grams of fentanyl delivery is eligible for probation. That can be 7,000 times larger than a lethal dose.

Reynolds joined state Sens. Sally Turner of Beason and Sue Rezin of Morris at a news conference Tuesday to announce a bill that tries to curb the fentanyl epidemic. It would make it crime punishable by up to 40 years in prison to sell drugs such as Adderall and Vicodin that contain fentanyl.

“If you haven’t been personally touched by someone that passed away from fentanyl poisoning, I can guarantee you will,” Turner said. Illinois reported more than 2,600 synthetic opioid deaths last year.

The proposal also makes it a felony to use a smartphone or other electronic device to sell fentanyl. The charge would come with a fine of up to $100,000.

Rezin, the Senate's deputy minority leader, said drugs laced with fentanyl often are sold online to unsuspecting buyers.

“Many people are just going on their social media, going to a website, going to somebody’s page, going to a drug dealer, purchasing it and the drug is delivered. They are assuming it is safe to take,” Rezin said.

Turner said she hopes lawmakers will take up the bill during the fall veto session that started Tuesday.

Turner's district includes much of McLean and Tazewell counties.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.