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One bill in the Missouri state legislature aims to increase penalties for certain drug charges. According to the bill, possession or distribution of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opiate, and some drugs classified as "date-rape drugs" would be classified as first- or second-degree felonies. The legislation would also apply to fentanyl derivatives such as carfentanil. As a result, people could face prison sentences of three years to life if convicted on these charges.

To some extent, the bill comes in response to the growing number of fatal overdoses associated with the opiate crisis. In 2017, over 950 people in Missouri died of opioid overdoses, and many of these deaths have been associated with fentanyl. Fentanyl is often combined with other opiate drugs such as heroin in order to enhance its potency, but it can be particularly dangerous if users do not know the concentration of fentanyl in their drugs. One legislator said that fentanyl dealing has generally been prosecuted under current laws, as it is typically combined with heroin. However, she said that fentanyl on its own is not yet classified as a controlled substance, and it is being sold for combination with other drugs.

The bill also applies this felony-level classification to possession of certain types of party drugs that are called "date-rape drugs" for their effect on behavior and memory. The most well-known of these drugs are GHB and the drug generally known as Rohypnol. The bill originally classified the possession of Rohypnol as a lesser offense, but an amendment equalized the penalties to the other named drugs.

People who have been charged with drug crimes can face severe penalties, including hefty fines, prison sentences and a felony criminal record, if a conviction is obtained. Accordingly, they might want to meet with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible so that a strategy to combat the charges can be built.

Source: Hannibal Courier-Post, "Missouri bill targets fentanyl, date-rape drug possession", Summer Ballentine, Associated Press, Feb. 23, 2019

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