Fighting back against fentanyl: New Iowa law increases penalties for selling & possessing fentanyl

In response to an alarming surge in fentanyl-related deaths, Iowa’s governor has signed a bill to crack down on the epidemic. The new law will increase penalties for manufacturing, dealing and possessing fentanyl and for causing death or serious injury by selling any illegal drug.

At the same time, the law allows law enforcement, fire departments, school and health care workers to administer anti-overdose drugs, such as Narcan, to people who are suffering an overdose. It also shields those who administer these drugs from liability for any injuries if they acted in good faith. As Emily’s Hope told you earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved making Narcan available nationwide over the counter without a prescription.

Under Iowa’s new law, individuals caught with more than 50 grams of fentanyl could face up to 50 years in prison and a hefty fine of up to $1,000,000. Offenders in possession of five to 50 grams may be sentenced to up to 25 years behind bars, accompanied by fines reaching $100,000. Additionally, those caught with less than five grams could be imprisoned for up to ten years, coupled with fines of up to $50,000.

Governor Kim Reynolds highlighted the urgency of this legislation, noting that Iowa experienced a distressing 45% increase in opioid overdose deaths between 2019 and 2022, particularly impacting individuals under the age of 25. The new law is set to take effect on July 1.

Iowa is not alone in grappling with the fentanyl crisis, as other states are also considering measures to combat the issue. For instance, Alaska lawmakers are engaged in debates surrounding a similar bill that seeks to increase penalties for distributing fentanyl, opioids, and methamphetamines. In Texas, lawmakers are deliberating a bill that would allow prosecutors to pursue murder charges in certain fentanyl-related deaths.

Nevertheless, critics of stricter drug legislation caution that increasing penalties may deter people from seeking help for someone experiencing an overdose. To address this concern, some states are taking alternative approaches. In California, a proposed bill aims to ensure that Narcan is readily available in schools, while other legislation focuses on mandating drug education. In a recent development, the governor of Kansas signed a bill decriminalizing the use of fentanyl test strips, demonstrating a different strategy to tackle the crisis.