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In the final minutes of the final hours of the 73rd Legislative Session of the Colorado Legislature on Wednesday evening,  HB22-1326 passed, but not before House Democrats adopted a change that they agreed to because if they did not, the bill would have died in the House Chamber.

Under the final version of the legislature’s highly controversial (and much-debated) bill to combat fentanyl, a person can be subject to a felony drug charge if they possess even a dusting of the lethal synthetic opioid, whether or not they realize that what they possess is indeed fentanyl.

The bill passed the Colorado Senate last week. The last-minute debate, based on the changes made by the Senate, means that a person charged with felony possession of even a trace can turn that felony into a misdemeanor at trial. The change puts the burden on the defendant to prove they did not know they had fentanyl, instead of the burden being placed on the prosecutors.

“The burden of proof is still on the defendant, but there is a pathway that if you truly had no idea that you were buying fentanyl, there’s a process in place where you have the opportunity to prove your innocence. It’s a victim-centered approach,” said one of the bill’s sponsors, State Sen. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood).

The rapid rise of fentanyl use in Colorado and across the nation has been nothing short of staggering, rapidly becoming the most dangerous and deadly drug in illegal distribution. In fact, the number of Coloradans who have fatally overdosed with fentanyl has increased nearly 20-fold in just six years.

Fentanyl is a potent, synthetic opioid powder that has caused a spike in overdoses across the nation. It is considered ten times more deadly than heroin. The deadly synthetic drug can kill a person the very first time they use it, and most deaths from fentanyl are occurring when the person may not even realize the drug they ingested contained fentanyl.

Featured image: The Colorado Capital rotunda dome.