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Iowa bill creates first-degree murder charge for fentanyl death

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(The Center Square) – The Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a bill Wednesday creating a first-degree murder charge for a person who provided fentanyl that caused the death of another.

First-degree murder is a Class A felony in Iowa with a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Sen. Janice Weiner, D-Iowa City, was one of five committee members voting against House File 2576.

“My concern is I don’t see this as being a deterrent. We already have really hefty sentences for drug dealers – 50 years times three so you would think that would be a sufficient deterrent but apparently it’s not,” Weiner said. “I would really rather see us focus or our efforts on prevention and on helping those who suffer from opioid-use disorder and other measures the Opioid Settlement Fund could help among other things rather than putting murder one on someone who honestly may not have had a clue was in the pill.”

The bill was also challenged by Democrats in the House of Representatives, who questioned the punishment.

“This is an extreme punishment because we have an extreme problem in Iowa,” said Rep. Ann Meyer, R-Fort Dodge, who presented the bill to the House. “And I’m here to fight for those family member of people that are getting swept up for some reason and taking a counterfeit pill, which are plentiful in our state right now. We need an extreme solution.”

The House approved the bill 88-12, with two members not voting. It now goes to the full Senate.

Similar bills are making their way through Congress. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and other senators introduced a bill last year that would charge drug dealers with first-degree murder if their drugs led to the death of another. The bill is in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., introduced “Alexandra’s Law” in December that would require convicted fentanyl dealers to sign a statement saying that they know fentanyl is lethal and could lead to murder charges if they deal again. The bill is in honor of a 20-year-old woman who died after taking a counterfeit oxycodone pill.

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