ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) — Law enforcement officials have identified fentanyl as a major problem and a cause of crime in New Mexico. Now three state lawmakers want tougher penalties for fentanyl traffickers.
Officials said fentanyl use was on the rise nationwide. House Bill 60 tries to address the issue with more jail sentences. Under the auspices of MP Rehm, MP Pettigrew and MP Lord, House Bill 60 targets fentanyl dealers: three-year sentence extension if 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 provide law enforcement with more tools to combat the fentanyl crisis. HB 60 is a direct response to the crisis afflicting so many New Mexico families as we see a continued increase in the use and distribution of fentanyl. It is imperative that we tighten penalties for distributing this dangerous drug. Too many New Mexicans are dying or losing loved ones because law enforcement and our criminal justice system do not have the tools to turn the tide in this crisis.”
The bill goes to the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee, where it must win support from Democrats.
“We are evaluating the impact this will have on the majority of people in our state for our constituents, as well as whether there are any unintended consequences,” said Rep. Joanne Ferrary (D-Las Cruces), chair of the Consumer Affairs Committee. and Public Affairs of the House of Representatives.
Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen said his office advocated harsher penalties. A sheriff’s office spokesman told News 13, “Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen supports House Bill 60 and wants the bill passed. Tougher sentencing for possession of large amounts of fentanyl is needed to make Bernalillo County safer. Fentanyl is a major problem in our community and our MPs encounter cases of this deadly drug on a daily basis.”
The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) and the city both declined to comment on the bill, but just last month Mayor Tim Keller told News 13 that increasing fentanyl use is a problem: “You know, our city is busier Guns and fentanyl.” Keller said at the time.
APD Police Chief Medina also confirmed the worrying trend in an interview Friday: “Without a doubt, not only have we seen an increase in fentanyl use in Albuquerque, but I’m speaking to other first responders across New Mexic state. It’s a big problem for the state of New Mexico, and it’s seen as growing across the state, and in fact, they’re seeing an increase in fentanyl use statewide.”
News 13 tried to reach all three state officials behind the law but was unable to arrange interviews with them on Friday.
In New Mexico, drug trafficking lasts up to nine years for a first offense and up to 18 years for a second offense.