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Walker votes to reduce penalties for fentanyl, Vrett supports legislation to increase penalties

(ARLINGTON HEIGHTS) – Candidate for the 53rd Illinois House District Jack Vrett today voiced his support for newly introduced legislation aimed at combating the opioid epidemic through stricter penalties for those possessing dealer-level quantities of fentanyl.

Introduced in the Illinois House this week, HB 5808 would increase penalties for those possessing, manufacturing, and delivering the lethal drug fentanyl, and would create sentencing minimums for offenses in which criminals attempt to market the deadly drug to young residents.

“As a former criminal prosecutor, keeping dangerous drugs off the streets is a public safety priority,” Vrett said. “This new legislation takes the right approach to tackling this deadly issue by addressing it head on and ensuring those responsible for drug trafficking are held accountable.”

Vrett added that stopping fentanyl distribution is especially vital in suburban Cook County where there were 487 opioid-involved overdose deaths in 2020, a 36 percent increase from 2019, with 83 percent of the deaths involving fentanyl, according to the Cook County Department of Public Health.

Despite those harrowing statistics, Vrett’s opponent, Rep. Mark Walker, cosponsored HB 3447 to decriminalize possession of up to three grams of fentanyl and other deadly drugs to a misdemeanor.

“While three grams of fentanyl may not sound like much, it contains thousands of doses and is strong enough to kill 1,500 people,” Vrett said. “These are drug trade quantities of fentanyl, and instead of lowering penalties, we should find constructive ways to stop the flow of opioids into our communities.”

That legislation, which only narrowly won approval in the Illinois House of Representatives with Walker’s support, also stipulates that multiple misdemeanor charges for possession of opioids cannot result in stiffer penalties, meaning that repeat offenders would be treated the same as first-time offenders. Opponents argue that the measure would make it easier for drug dealers to evade prosecution and continue flooding our neighborhoods with life-threatening drugs.

Fentanyl is the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18-45, according to the CDC.

Additionally, overdose deaths involving opioids rose 38.1 percent from January 2020 to January 2021 and overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids (primarily illicitly manufactured fentanyl) rose 55.6 percent and appear to be the primary driver of the increase in total drug overdose deaths, according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.

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