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Penalties for fentanyl distribution increasing in Wisconsin

Published: Mar. 16, 2022 at 4:27 PM CDT
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) - Wisconsin lawmakers are taking action to try and limit the use of fentanyl.

Gov. Evers signed a trio of bills into law Wednesday morning at the Lighthouse Peer Respite Center in La Crosse.

Senate Bill 352 is increasing the penalties to manufacture and distribute fentanyl, with the structure being similar to that of crimes involving heroin.

10 grams or less will be considered a Class E felony...more than 10, but less than 50, a Class D felony...and more than 50 grams a Class C felony.

Paul Krupski, the Director of Opioid Initiatives with the Wisconsin DHS, says the new laws may be able to reverse a tend that’s been developing across the state.

“For more than five years, synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, has been the driving force in opioid-related overdoses and deaths in our state,” Krupski detailed.

La Crosse County has seen a similar rise in opioid issues, as the County Medical Examiner has reported more than 70 overdoses over the last two years.

More than half of those deaths had opioids involved, so the La Crosse Police Department hopes the increased penalties will help get the drug off the streets.

“The police department feels the added consequences are needed to correlate with the serious consequences of selling fentanyl,” Police Investigator Andrew Tolvstad expressed.

Even if the direct sale of fentanyl is limited, Krupski says it can still spread through a community.

“Fentanyl is now present throughout the entire drug supply,” Krupski explained. “We need people to be aware that whether it’s heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, or even marijuana, fentanyl is likely present in the substance you are using.”

A separate bill was signed by Evers Wednesday to decriminalize fentanyl testing strips in an effort to prevent future overdoses.

“While promoting safe and responsible use, we’re helping ensure folks to keep themselves and others safe by using testing strips to identify if a substance is laced with fentanyl before even taking it,” Evers said.

The Wisconsin DHS is making plans to provide testing strips to partner organizations, which will then distribute them throughout their communities.

The third bill Evers signed will establish and maintain a data system to collect, format, analyze, and disseminate information on opioid and methamphetamine use in Wisconsin.

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