A push to equate fentanyl crimes with penalties in cases involving heroin again appeared to be nearing another dead end as the Minnesota Legislature prepared to close business.
A bill equating the weight threshold for felony fentanyl cases with that used to charge heroin crimes passed the GOP-led Senate on a bipartisan 62-5 vote last year and was included in the Senate's public safety bill that passed earlier this session. Supporters, including the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, point out that the opiate is 50 times more powerful than heroin.
"I don't think we fully knew what was coming with fentanyl and just how quickly it's come on to the scene," said Dawn Nyhus, the lead criminal prosecutor for the Sherburne County Attorney's Office. "It seems to be common sense that we would want to be able to more proactively go after people who are dealing fentanyl by bringing these thresholds in line, and also to give individuals who are using and who are addicted more opportunities for treatment and programming."
House Democrats have rejected attempts to pass the change, with some expressing concerns of aggravating racial disparities in prison.
"It's difficult to differentiate between people who sell and people with chemical dependence and addiction," said Rep. Sandra Feist, DFL-New Brighton, during a House hearing in which Democrats voted down an amendment to adopt the new threshold.