Wed, Feb. 26

Editorial: Prison fair treatment for those who sell fentanyl

A case of conflicting values represents the rocky waters still to be navigated for a just Arizona law that mandates punishment for people who sell opioids such as fentanyl.

A proposed bill seeking mandatory 5-year prison terms for such offenders made it through its first committee hearing Wednesday, but not without a warning that revisions will be necessary for the measure to gain House approval.

The sticking point deals largely with the fact that Arizona’s prison system is overburdened to the point that it takes up 10% of the entire state budget.

As pointed out Wednesday by Rep. Steve Pierce, R-Prescott, “Frankly, we can’t afford to keep doing what we’ve been doing."

Rep. Pierce is right, but here is the rub.

Those who sell fentanyl, even if it is to support their own habit, just as easily could be pointing a gun to someone’s head in a game of Russian roulette.

Even in minute amounts, fentanyl kills. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports of all opioid-related overdose deaths “synthetic opioids, such as illicit fentanyl, have surpassed prescription opioids as the most common drug involved in overdose deaths in the U.S.”

Further, the Centers for Disease Control reports the sharp rise in fentanyl-related deaths is due to “increased availability of illegally made, non-pharmaceutical fentanyl, and not prescribed fentanyl."

Those who deal in illegal non-pharmaceutical fentanyl are murderers. The mandatory 5-year prison terms for such death merchants is just-and-deserved punishment.

Further, it bears emphasis that Arizona lawmakers already have determined that mandatory prison sentencing is just for those who sell methamphetamine. The precedent is there to be just as tough when it comes to fentanyl.

As for the problem of prison overcrowding, that issue definitely deserves the attention of state lawmakers. Arizona, the entire United States for that matter, needs an overhaul of incarceration laws, as well as giving judges more case-by-case individual discretion in determining those who do and do not deserve time behind bars.

But when it comes to fentanyl cases, we are talking about a potential death sentence to those who ingest the drug.

The people who sell it are killers.

They deserve prison.

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