Progressive Nevada AG Changes Drug Position

( – When the wind changes on hot-button social issues, so do the views of politicians. This time, Nevada’s progressive Attorney General is doing an about-face on drug crime penalties.

After helping draft a 2019 law that weakened criminal penalties for possessing large amounts of drugs like fentanyl, AG Aaron Ford is calling on the state house to stiffen penalties for lower amounts of fentanyl possession.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that mimics the pain-killing action of morphine. But it is 100 times more potent by weight than morphine, which makes overdose deaths much harder to avoid. Mexican-derived fentanyl has exploded into the U.S. street drug market in recent years and has been found contaminating other street drugs, such as the much less dangerous marijuana.

Current Nevada law says that those who possess less than 100 grams of fentanyl would only be charged with a misdemeanor, not a felony. But the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) says that amount is already enough to kill between 300,000 and 500,000 people.

A new bill introduced by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro would lower that possession limit to four grams. That was the amount necessary for a felony conviction under Nevada law before the more lenient law was passed in 2019. AG Ford backed that lenient law.

While four grams is significantly lower, it is still enough fentanyl to kill more than 1,200 people.

Attorney General Ford also calls on lawmakers to pass another bill that would set up increasing penalties for fentanyl possession starting at 14 grams.

Some tough-on-drugs politicians say the new legislation doesn’t go far enough. Republican Governor Joe Lombardo said any possession of fentanyl in any amount should be treated as a felony.

A group that works with Lombardo said Ford’s change of heart isn’t enough, especially as he backed the earlier laws that let drug criminals off lightly.

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