You Will Never Make The Fearmongers Happy

Heidi Ganahl: eating her own to own the libs.

Last week, as most area news outlets reported, Gov. Jared Polis and a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers unveiled legislation meant to crack down on the distribution of the deadly synthetic opioid drug fentanyl, which in recent years has been mass-produced and in some cases substituted to users without their knowledge for other drugs with lethal consequences. The rapid proliferation of fentanyl and corresponding sharp rise in overdose deaths have turned policy toward the drug into a political hot button–and in Colorado, we’ve been covering as the conflict developed this legislative session, an attempted partisan election-year wedge.

But as Marianne Goodland at the Colorado Springs Gazette’s political blog reports and we’ve been watching the whole session as the issue has developed, the partisan grandstanding over fentanyl doesn’t comport with reality past or present:

In a rare bipartisan press conference in the 2022 session, Gov. Jared Polis, legislators, families who have lost loved ones and district attorneys on Thursday announced a comprehensive bill to confront the state’s burgeoning fentanyl crisis, arguing its passage would make streets and homes safer.

The bill will focus on both heightened penalties for fentanyl distribution – but not possession – and more resources for a state education campaign and treatment for those addicted to the compound drugs that now often contain fentanyl.

Thursday’s press conference introducing what’s become known as the “fentanyl bill” featured Republican sponsors of the legislation, including Rep. Mike Lynch of Wellington and Sen. John Cooke, the former Sheriff of Weld County, as well as prosecutors from both sides of the aisle in support including Republican Mesa County DA Dan Rubinstein. Denver7:

Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, a former Weld County sheriff who is one of the sponsors of the bill, said bringing those cutoff points down was “critical if we are going to go after the people responsible for these deaths.” Several district attorneys from both parties also said they supported the changes.

“Through this legislation, we will be able to respond aggressively to dealers taking lives when distributing this deadly drug,” said Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein, a Republican…

“This is not a partisan issue. This is a leadership issue,” Lynch said at the news conference. “It’s where we come together as a state to find and fix problems, and I’m honored to be a part of it.” [Pols emphasis]

But just as we saw with Republican Rep. Shane Sandridge’s brave stand against misinformation from fellow Republicans about the 2019 bipartisan sentencing reform bill that reduced possession–but not distribution–of most drugs to a misdemeanor below a specified quantity, partisan usual suspects are simply refusing to acknowledge this year’s bipartisan effort to address fentanyl. That’s resulting in some rather…awkward situations:

Folks, if you’ve ever met Sen. John Cooke, the former Weld County Sheriff who would on most days gladly bend fold and spindle reality to “own the libs,” you know how preposterous it is to refer to Cooke as a “far-left lawmaker.” But that’s what GOP gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl just did! Hopefully they can make amends, or the next Weld County Lincoln Day dinner could be a dicey affair.

Moving past the laughably misplaced partisan fingerpointing over another bipartisan effort, the fixation for opponents remains on undoing perhaps the most important concept behind the 2019 reform bill, which was separating the medical problem of drug addiction from the crime of drug dealing. And this bears a moment of discussion.

The most important point hasn’t changed. It’s the same point made by Rep. Sandridge in defense of the original 2019 bill reducing penalties for simple possession to a misdemeanor. Drug addicts in personal possession are suffering from a medical condition. They need treatment, not a lifetime as a second-class citizen with a felony criminal conviction. The penalty for selling fentanyl or for that matter any other illegal drug was never reduced. As we’ve said repeatedly, it’s outrageously deceptive to claim “enough fentanyl to kill thousands of people is now a misdemeanor,” since the drug would have to be distributed for that to happen and distribution has always been a felony. The new legislation also clarifies that the total weight of pills containing a tiny amount of fentanyl count toward possession limits.

This latest bill is a smart bipartisan response to a problem that is much bigger than Colorado, and takes aim where law enforcement is needed: with drug dealers, not drug addicts who need treatment. Out of desperation to exploit a frightening issue for political gain, a faction of Republicans have shown no qualms about eating their own–and now asking for seconds.

It’s a cynical game. And if enough Republicans like Rep. Sandridge and Sen. Cooke refuse to play, it could be very damaging for fellow Republicans who insist.

7 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    Is it possible for this woman to become an even bigger bimbo?

    Not being sexist, as there also are male bimbos, beginning with Sen. Ron Hanks.

  2. kwtree says:

    Pre-pandemic, opioid deaths were down under the < 4 grams = misdemeanor policy. 
    In the pandemic, opioid ( especially fentanyl) deaths were up 54%, but probably not due to lower penalties for possession.

  3. spaceman2021 says:

    Simple possession as a felony is fucking ridiculous.  But let's start another drug war.  Last one worked so well.

  4. Moderatus says:

    I guess this makes Denver Mayor Michael Hancock a right winger…

  5. davebarnes says:

    I say: make all drugs—except antibiotics —OTC for adults.

    Let Darwin sort them out.

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