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Dems make last minute changes to soften criminal penalties in bill intended to save thousands from drug deaths

Democrats in Nevada have made last minute changes to a bill intended to crack down on the possession of fentanyl by significantly softening the legislation’s threshold of how much someone could possess that would be considered low-level trafficking.

The amended bill, SB35, was presented to the state legislature by Nevada’s progressive Democratic Attorney General Aaron Ford last week, just hours before the deadline for it to pass out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee. 

According to Ford, the amendment came as a “compromise between the many groups with an interest in this issue,” and included the drop of the low-level trafficking charge for fentanyl possession from 4 grams to 28 grams.

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Rainbow fentanyl pills

Rainbow fentanyl pills seized by the Drug Enforcement Agency. (DEA)

The push for the new crime bill comes amid a worsening fentanyl crisis and just a few years after Nevada Democrats, with Ford’s support, passed a 2019 bill that weakened penalties for larger amounts of drug possession, including fentanyl. 

The 2019 bill, AB236, made it possible for a person in possession of fentanyl to only be charged with a misdemeanor unless the amount possessed was at least 100 grams, an amount the DEA says could kill between 300,000 and 500,000 people. Prior to this bill’s passage, the previous low-level trafficking threshold was set at 4 grams, the amount the new bill would have reverted to until Democrats’ last minute changes.

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