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Senate bills targeting large-scale drug traffickers face opposition in committee meetings

Roman Battaglia
Delaware Public Media

Multiple organizations oppose Senate Bill 100 which seeks to increase the penalties for possession and sale of large quantities of fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, and other illegal drugs.

The legislation also designates the highest tier of weights and potency as a violent felony, meaning offenders would be more likely held on cash bail and face stiffer sentences.

The Office of Defense Services Chief Defender Kevin O’Connell points out Delaware has the most expansive list of violent felonies with 85 separate offenses. The next closest state is in the mid-20’s.

O’Connell says adding to that list will just put more people in jail for longer periods.

ACLU of Delaware policy and advocacy director Javonne Rich says they also oppose the bill, especially the violent felony classification.

"Because like many drug crimes it does not involve actual or threaten physical force so as to injure, abuse, damage, or destroy as we commonly understand the term violent. This reasoning applies equally to drug crimes regardless of the amount of quantity drugs involved. For this reason as with other drug crimes this offense should not automatically see the enhanced penalty that comes with classification of a violent crime," said Rich.

YWCA Delaware and the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League also spoke out against the bill during Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill advances to the full Senate.

The Office of Defense Services is also among those against Senate Bill 101 which would strengthen penalties for possessing small amounts of fentanyl.

Fentanyl is largely found mixed with heroin - mixed out of state and trafficked in.

O’Connell argues that means this bill would likely penalize everyday users and not the traffickers it targets.

And he says those at most risk of being penalized are minorities and low income people.

"If your goal is to get the traffickers off the street the big level movers off the street this is not going to do that,” said O’Connell. “You're going to do what you did back in the '80s and '90s with crack, you're going to put a disproportionate number of poor people in jail and think that you're doing something about the problem."

O’Connell notes the Office of Defense Services is willing to discuss changes to the current bill so it better fulfills its goals.

The ACLU of Delaware also opposes this legislation.

Joe brings over 20 years of experience in news and radio to Delaware Public Media and the All Things Considered host position. He joined DPM in November 2019 as a reporter and fill-in ATC host after six years as a reporter and anchor at commercial radio stations in New Castle and Sussex Counties.