Wicker, Hyde-Smith Move to Make Distribution of Deadly Fentanyl Chargeable as Felony Murder

Miss. Senators Cosponsor Bill to Toughen Punishment for Knowingly Dealing Lethal Opiate

September 16, 2022

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., on Thursday joined U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in introducing legislation to make the distribution of fentanyl resulting in death chargeable as a felony murder.

In instances of deaths resulting from illegal fentanyl-related opiates, the Felony Murder for Deadly Fentanyl Distribution Act (S.4876) would amend the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to make it a felony to distribute fentanyl and fentanyl-analogs if the dealer has knowledge or reason to know that the substance they are dealing contains fentanyl or a fentanyl-analog.

“The lethal drug fentanyl is destroying lives across the country, and dealers who put it on our streets should be held responsible,” Wicker said. “This bill would send a strong signal that the federal government will not tolerate this deadly drug which is tearing apart communities, or those who distribute it.”

“The Biden administration has failed to enforce multiple policies to stop fentanyl from coming across the border, even though it is now the leading cause of death for adults aged 18 to 45,” Hyde-Smith said.  “This legislation is desperately needed to protect our communities by ensuring harsher consequences to those who knowingly distribute this deadly drug in Mississippi and across the country.”

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data, authorities seized enough fentanyl in July — 2,071 pounds — to kill 469 million Americans.  That is up from 680 pounds seized in June as the issue continues to hit close to home for far too many Americans, whether or not they live in a border-state. 

Under current law, the CSA treats all Schedule I and Schedule II drugs the same for purposes of distribution resulting in death by mandating a 20-year minimum and no more than life, despite varying degrees of lethality, availability, and medicinal purposes.

A March 2022 Mississippi State Department of Health report shows a sharp escalation of overall deaths in Mississippi involving fentanyl, including a 125 percent increase in overdose fatalities due to synthetic opioids from 2019 to 2020.

Additional S.4876 cosponsors include Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and Steve Daines (R-Mont.).

Click here to read the text of S.4876, which has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.