ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) — Law enforcement officials have called fentanyl a major problem and driver of crime in New Mexico. Now, three state lawmakers want harsher sentences for fentanyl dealers.
Officials said fentanyl use is on the rise nationwide. House Bill 60 is trying to tackle the problem with more prison time. Sponsored by Representative Rehm, Representative Pettigrew, and Representative Lord, House Bill 60 targets fentanyl traffickers: adding three years to a sentence if someone’s found with more than 50 fentanyl pills; five years for more than 50 pills; and seven years for more than 75 pills.
Republican House Communications Director Matt Garcia-Sierra said in a statement: “This bill is intended to help law enforcement with more tools to fight against the fentanyl crisis. HB 60 is a direct response to the crisis so many New Mexico families are dealing with as we see a continued surge in fentanyl use and distribution. We absolutely need to beef up penalties for distribution of this dangerous drug. Too many New Mexicans are dying or losing loved ones because law enforcement and our criminal justice system does not have the tools to turn the tide on this crisis.”
The bill is headed to the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee, where it will need to win Democrat support.
“We look at the impacts it will have on the majority of people in our state for our constituents and also if there’s any unintended consequences,” said Representative Joanne Ferrary, (D-Las Cruces) chair of the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee.
Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen stated his office is in favor of harsher penalties. A statement from a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office to News 13 said: “Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen supports House Bill 60 and wants to see the bill passed. Harsher sentencing for possessing large amounts of fentanyl is necessary to make Bernalillo County safer. Fentanyl is a massive issue in our community, and our deputies encounter cases involving this lethal drug daily.”
Albuquerque Police Department (APD) and the city both declined to comment on the bill, however, just last month Mayor Tim Keller told News 13 that rising Fentanyl use is a problem: “You know, our city is awash in guns and fentanyl,” Keller said then.
APD Police Chief Medina also acknowledged the concerning trend in an interview Friday: “Without a doubt, we have seen an increase in fentanyl use not just in Albuquerque, but I speak to other first responders across the state of New Mexic. It is a huge issue for the State of New Mexico, and it is something that is being seen as increasing across the state and actually nationwide they’re seeing an increase in fentanyl use.”
News 13 tried reaching out to all three state representatives behind this bill but could not get interviews lined up with them Friday.
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In New Mexico, drug trafficking carries up to nine years for a first offense and up to 18 years for a second offense.