This week, the City of Meridian is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Meridian Anti-Drug Coalition (MADC). MADC was started by Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd and is a great testament to the community’s commitment to substance abuse prevention. It is a partnership between the Meridian Police Department, healthcare professionals, our school district, faith and business leaders, impacted family members, our youth and more. I’m proud of the work they do every day in prevention education and advocating for a drug-free Meridian for our families, and I want to thank Mayor Tammy for her work to initiate this program.
As states surrounding Idaho have chosen to legalize and decriminalize drugs, our State Legislature and Governor have stood their ground in Idaho. Unfortunately, one drug has been making its way into Idaho, the Treasure Valley, and Meridian with little consequence to those who bring it here. That drug is fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 50 times strong than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. And it kills.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported that from 2020 to 2022, the rate of fentanyl-related overdose deaths tripled in Idaho. And the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that death among our kids aged 10-19 has increased 182% nationwide from 2019 to 2021. This is despite Idaho State Police reporting a 562% increase in seizures of fentanyl between 2020 to 2021. Fentanyl is small in size and easy to transport. Idaho is on the distribution corridor and our laws currently don’t dissuade fentanyl from coming to Idaho in large quantities due to lacking mandatory minimum sentences for those caught trafficking. This has to change now if we want to help prevent this growing issue in our communities and save lives.
Legislation was introduced to address this issue in the House Judiciary, Rules and Admin Committee that creates mandatory prison sentences for those who traffic fentanyl in Idaho. It follows our other existing Idaho laws that have mandatory minimum sentences for the trafficking of other drugs. This type of legislation is a deterrence to traffickers and helps keep large quantities of drugs from entering Idaho, off our streets, and out of the hands of our family members.
What we hope this legislation will really do is to help prevent overdose deaths of loved ones, specifically our vulnerable populations such as our youth and those struggling with addiction. It will support the hard work of our law enforcement agencies and put criminals – those who are trafficking drugs into Idaho - where they belong. And it sends a crystal-clear message to the larger criminal organizations that Idaho is not for sale, and we won’t tolerate this attack on our society.
Not every city in Idaho has an MADC working to keep their community drug-free. But if we add fentanyl to the list of illegal drugs that have mandatory minimums for trafficking in Idaho, we can help every community have a fighting chance. I hope that you agree and ask that you lend your support by contacting your legislators and telling them how important it is to pass this important piece of legislation.