PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Illinois House Republicans say more aggressive tactics are needed to combat fentanyl deaths.
State Rep. Deanne Mazzochi (R-Elmhurst) introduced House Bill 5808 to give State’s Attorneys more tools to go after drug traffickers with stiffer penalties for fentanyl analogs like carfentanil, an elephant tranquilizer that is 100 times stronger than fentanyl.
“It’s the distribution and the method of distribution that we’re really going after,” she said.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans aged 18 to 45.
Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood said he supports any legislation that will prosecute drug dealers.
“Anything that’s going to take the drug dealer off the streets, where the harmful fentanyl and laced drugs are, I’m a fan of,” he said.
Chris Schaffner, program manager of Jolt Harm Reduction in Peoria, is not convinced. He said low-level drug users, who are addicted and trying to support their own habit by dealing, will be swept up in the process.
“Most of the people here are not cartel-level dealers. They’re not large drug dealers. These are largely people that are supporting their own drug use disorder,” he said.
Schaffner said he supports the decriminalization of drugs, adding the War on Drugs hasn’t worked.
“This is not a deterrent. I don’t know how many more times we have to try stronger, more punitive drugs laws before we realize this is not making a dent,” he said.
Mazzochi said the DEA is also warning about “rainbow fentanyl” targeting young people.
“It’s fentanyl that has been compounded, packaged, or designed to be brightly colored to look like chalk or candy,” she said.
But Schaffner pushed back against some of those claims.
“Is there an appeal to young people, sure there could be. It does look like candy, I’m not going to refute that. But the scare is along the lines of razor blades in candy bars. They’ve been largely unfounded, hyped up rhetoric, intended to induce fear,” he said.