ST. TAMMANY PARISH, La. — A Northshore state lawmaker is seeking up to life in prison for criminals convicted of manufacturing fentanyl.
The drug is responsible for a growing number of overdose deaths, about 93% in St. Tammany Parish.
Last month, 8 people in the parish died in just 12 days after taking the drug.
Last year, 140 people died in St. Tammany from fentanyl poisoning.
This year, the parish is on pace to double that number.
“Doing the math, 2 to 3 a week at least,” St. Tammany Coroner Dr. Charles Preston said. “It seems like every overdose death certificate I’m signing now has fentanyl on it.”
"We’re seeing fentanyl-laced in just about everything, marijuana, all types of different pills from Adderall, Xanax, Percocet,” St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office Major Danny Culpepper said. What we’re also seeing is the amount. The smallest amount can kill.”
Tuesday – Senator Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, who is also running for governor, announced she has filed a bill for the upcoming legislative session that seeks to crack down on the illegal manufacturing of the deadly drug.
“I believe this legislation is going to send a message to those criminals that we don’t want your labs in Louisiana,” Hewitt said. “It’s time to pack up and get out of our neighborhoods.”
Right now, manufacturing a controlled dangerous substance in Louisiana can result in a 5-to-15-year prison sentence.
Under Hewitt’s bill, if you’re caught cooking up fentanyl or combining it with other drugs, you could face a minimum of 10 and up to 40 years in prison.
A second conviction could get you no less than 30 and up to 40 years. Three strikes and you’re out. A third conviction carries a mandatory 99-year jail sentence.
“As far as I’m concerned, I would like it to be two strikes and you’re out when it comes to fentanyl,” St. Tammany District Attorney Warren Montgomery said. “Hopefully we can drive down the supply of fentanyl and save lives.”
The new penalties for fentanyl would also include up to $500,000 in fines.
Senator Hewitt’s bill goes after the drug manufacturer, but she says she is co-authoring another piece of legislation with Rep. Debbie Villio, R-Kenner, that proposes similar strict penalties against people who deal fentanyl.
The bill is expected to be discussed during the upcoming legislative session which starts next month. It can be read here.