Governor Reynolds in Atlantic. (KJAN photo)

Governor Kim Reynolds has signed a bill into law that significantly increases the criminal penalties for making or selling illegal drugs laced with fentanyl.

“Between 2019 and 2022, Iowa saw a 45% increase in opioid deaths,” Reynolds said this morning, “including and especially a 160% increase for those under the age of 25.”

The Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement has seized nearly 28,000 fentanyl pills in the last six weeks. Iowa’s Republican governor said “it’s no mystery” where this “flood” of fentanyl is coming from.

“President Biden has a constitutional responsibility to secure our nation’s border from illegal immigration and drug trafficking, human trafficking and everything that’s taking place at the southern border,” Reynolds said. “His failure is empowering criminals, it’s empowering the cartel who trade others’ lives for profit and it truly is a disgrace.”

The bill doubles the penalty making and selling illegal drugs. Those caught with 50 grams of fentanyl could be sentenced to 50 years in an Iowa prison and penalties are also enhanced for selling illegal drugs to a minor. There are also harsher sentences for providing drugs that lead to an overdose or death.

“This law brings the drug dealers who kill to justice,” said Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird, who joined Reynolds for today’s bill signing ceremony. “It gives prosecutors the tools that we need to seek justice for the victims of crime and their families.”

The governor hosted a roundtable discussion in Atlantic about drug crimes before she signed the bill into law. Iowa Public Safety Commissioner Stephen Bayens said opioids are incredibly addictive and stopping the flow of fentanyl and other illegal drugs into urban and rural Iowa is a high priority.

“Law enforcement must lean on one another and leverage all of our resources to combat this epidemic,” Bayens said.

Bayens cited the recent federal indictments of six Iowans after a series of overdoses in Cass and Shelby Counties. “In the span of just a few months, those two small rural counties had five fentanyl overdoses, two of which were fatal. Agents further learned that the distribution of naloxone in these two counties had spiked,” Bayens said.

“Once the size and scope the problem had been identified, state, federal and local law enforcement from Iowa and Nebraska initiated a proactive and targeted investigation designed to root out the source of these overdoses.”

All six of those who were arrested last year have pleaded guilty after being accused of distributing over 10-thousand fentanyl pills in southwest Iowa.

(By Ric Hanson, KJAN, Atlantic)

Radio Iowa