Downstate senators propose penalty enhancements for fentanyl dealers

Sen. Sally Turner (R-Lincoln) speaks during a press conference on Nov. 15, 2022.
Sen. Sally Turner (R-Lincoln) speaks during a press conference on Nov. 15, 2022.(Mike Miletich)
Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 8:23 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Illinois Senate Republicans have introduced a proposal to create new offenses and penalties for people intentionally selling drugs laced with fentanyl.

Sen. Sally Turner (R-Lincoln) said Tuesday that her bill could charge people with a Class X felony and require nine to 40 years in prison for unlawfully selling or dispensing drugs such as Adderall or Vicodin that contain any amount of fentanyl. Her plan would also create a new Class 1 felony with a fine of up to $100,000 for anyone using a smartphone, computer, or tablet to sell drugs containing fentanyl.

“It’s important that we support and care for those that are afflicted with addiction but send a strong message to those who seek to make a profit off of this poison,” Turner said.

Senate Republicans say Illinois has seen the number of synthetic opioid deaths jump from 87 in 2013 to 2,672 in 2021. Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) said that is a 3,000 percent increase in less than a decade.

“Last year, the overdose deaths were more than homicide and suicides combined,” Rezin said. “As lawmakers, we cannot continue to turn a blind eye to this staggering trend. We need to confront it now.”

Turner and Rezin worked with McLean County State’s Attorney Erika Reynolds to draft the language for this plan. Reynolds said fentanyl is killing people in many communities and people knowingly spreading the drug should face harsher penalties.

“Currently, it takes over 15 grams of fentanyl delivery for a defendant to be nonprobational,” Reynolds said. “This makes it difficult for our office to hold people seriously accountable who sell fentanyl.”

Senate Bill 4221 has not been assigned to a Senate committee at this time. However, Senate Republicans hope the plan gains bipartisan support over the new few weeks. Turner also said she hopes the state is educating young people about fentanyl right now.

“This is killing people every day in monumental amounts,” Turner said. “When are we going to do something about it? I mean, this is something that we can all come together and do something that’s really important and good.”

Rezin noted that nearly 70,000 people 18 and older died last year from synthetic opioid-related incidents. She said that 90% of those deaths are fentanyl-related. Rezin stressed that the number is equivalent to a jetliner crashing every day.

“I use that analysis because if that scenario God forbid happened it would be on national news every single day and top story for the next month,” Rezin said. “But yet, we have these fentanyl poisoning deaths across the country at the same numbers and we hear nothing about it.”

Rezin and Turner said they plan to work with their colleagues on the other side of the aisle, although they admit it won’t be easy. Democrats are not likely to agree to penalty enhancements. Leaders of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus have fought against many proposals over recent years that would have created stricter criminal charges and penalties.

“Every state across the entire country is having a discussion about fentanyl poisoning in their state and what to do,” Rezin said. “So there’s enough good legislation in other states that we can look at as a model.”

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