Senate passes bill charging fentanyl dealers with murder if someone dies

The Arizona Senate passed a bill that would allow prosecutors to charge drug dealers with murder in fentanyl overdoses but some parents aren't onboard.
Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 6:18 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Ashlee Brown lost her son Maurice on Mother’s Day 2020. The 19-year-old died from a fentanyl overdose. She started a foundation in his honor and wants to see change, like harsher penalties for drug dealers. “If you are selling a pill to someone that you especially know could take their life, you should be charged with murder. No questions asked,” said Brown.

State GOP lawmakers want to do just that. A proposed bill passed the Senate Tuesday. It would charge fentanyl dealers with first-degree murder if someone uses their drug and dies. “If someone is selling fentanyl, part of an organized crime enterprise, they deserve to die. They deserve to go to prison for the rest of their lives. This is poison; it is killing Americans,” said Republican Sen. Sonny Borrelli.

Democratic Sen. Christine Marsh shares Brown’s pain. Her son died after taking a Percocet pill laced with fentanyl. She voted no on the bill saying it won’t deter dealers. “I would rather see some type of intervention. I have testified on this in my son’s death that I would like to see more community service with a harm reduction entity. A lot of these deaths are unintentional,” said Marsh.

Others have voiced concern about the bill criminalizing the wrong people, like drug addicts. However, Sen. Anthony Kern, who is sponsoring the bill, said it targets dealers involved in organized crime enterprises like drug cartels. Brown said this would bring justice to thousands of grieving families like hers. “You took someone’s life. There is no way that you should be able to walk this earth and move on with your life. Your mother gets to see you every day, your dad gets to see you every day. You killed a person,” said Brown.

The bill now heads to the House for a vote.