After five officers were hospitalized after possible Fentanyl exposure during a drug bust at State Line in South Lake Tahoe, and a video obtained and released of the encounter, Governor Joe Lombardo announced he will “introducing a bill that makes fentanyl possession in ANY amount a category B felony.”
Our brave law enforcement officers are on the frontlines of the fentanyl epidemic every single day. Even right here in Douglas Co.
We must to recommit to fighting fentanyl in NV. I'm starting by introducing a bill that makes fentanyl possession in ANY amount a category B felony. https://t.co/q6llfJK3K5
— Governor Joe Lombardo (@JosephMLombardo) February 16, 2023
Fentanyl overdose deaths in Nevada have nearly tripled in just two years. According to a report by Ben Margiott for KNRV :
Fentanyl-related overdoses have surged nationally and in northern Nevada in recent years. According to the medical examiner’s office, there were 56 fentanyl overdose deaths in 2020, 79 such deaths in 2021 and 144 in 2022.
The 2022 figure is subject to change because some cases are still under investigation and awaiting final toxicology reports.
During his State of the State and on the campaign trail, Governor Lombardo slammed Democratic legislation, signed by former Governor Sisolak, which reduced penalties for drug possession and distribution.
You raised the felony threshold. You make my officers issue citations instead of arrests. You lowered penalties for fentanyl and drug dealers. You took away harsher penalties for career criminals.
You did that, Steve.
And you left Nevada law enforcement to clean up your mess.
— Joe Lombardo (@JoeLombardoNV) August 6, 2022
“The statutes in AB 236 associated with sentencing and penalties related to narcotics trafficking, burglary, and larceny. The legislative body reduced felonies to misdemeanors and this has made it very difficult to make an arrest in that space. The legislature tied our hands in our ability to make an arrest in a violation of criminal law. In my opinion, it is very frustrating for us to respond to a call from a person in need and we can’t do anything about it or have an individual held responsible for the actions they conducted in a criminal space.”
The Globe asked for specific examples of felonies reduced to misdemeanors. Lombardo responded:
The threshold on larceny was raised from, I believe, $850 to $1200. You hear people opining about the threshold in CA of $950 and businesses are being put out of business as a result of that action. But here in Nevada, it’s even worse. People are very frustrated and looking for help, but the most we can do is issue a citation. We don’t have the ability to make an arrest in this space. And when crooks see this, and their communication network starts, crime rises.
“The other one would be narcotics,” Lombardo added. “The trafficking level of narcotics has been raised significantly in that space. Level One narcotics has been raised from four grams to 28 grams and that is a significant amount that we, as professionals in the law enforcement community, are looking at from a whole new and different paradigm.”
As Lombardo promises to increase penalties through legislation on fentanyl, Democratic Assemblyman David Orentlicher has drafted legislation to create “hygienic spaces” for drug use. This bill authorizes the board of county commissioners in a county whose population is 100,000 or more (currently Clark and Washoe Counties) to authorize the establishment of a program for the prevention of overdoses and disease that operates at one fixed or mobile site upon determining that the program is likely to achieve certain purposes relating to the reduction of harm caused by the consumption of drugs.
The bill would require state funds to provide the program sites staffing and monitoring by trained personnel, distribution of opioid antagonists, distribution and disposal of hypodermic devices, administration of first aid, upon request consultation concerning treatment for substance abuse, referral and treatment.
The likelihood of the bill making it out of the Health and Human Services committee is unknown, however should the bill land on the governor’s desk for approval, it is likely that he will veto this legislation based upon his current and past statements.
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