Louisiana law enforcement seeking stiffer penalties for fentanyl

Staff Report

The effort to stop the distribution and possession of fentanyl has become one of the toughest anti-drug battles law enforcement officials have faced, Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett M. Stassi said.

Stassi is among those on the front line with the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association on the push for stiffer penalties for possession and distribution of fentanyl.

Fentanyl has accounted for more deaths than cocaine and heroin over the last year. Local law enforcement wants state legislators to impose stiffer penalties for its manufacturing and distribution.

The push at the State Capitol comes as the number of fentanyl-related deaths continues to spike.

The death toll exceeded 70,000 by November 2022. That figure is triple the total of deaths from use of cocaine, prescribed opioid and heroin, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We’re doing everything we can to protect people from fentanyl,” Stassi sald. “Just last weekend, I saw a show in which they said there’s an even more potent form of fentanyl.”

China and Mexico been the biggest source for the manufacturing and distribution of fentanyl.

“These small labs are just 'shake and bake' labs that have such proficient ways to make it,” Stassi said.

Some come in a pill form similar to a painkiller such as Lortab, while some resemble a candy such as Skittles.

Plaquemine Assistant Police Chief Stephen Engolio, also a veteran of local law enforcement, said the makers of fentanyl use “virtually anything” of poison in the drug.

“It’s a different monster …it’s so deadly,” he said. “The quality control on what they put in it isn’t exactly Johnson & Johnsons.

“The problem with us is that you hardly get anyone with just fentanyl,” Engolio said. “They add it to heroin and the weird thing is adding it to cocaine, and they don’t know how much they’re putting in it … and it takes so little of it to kill someone.”

In Baton Rouge, state Sen. Caleb Kleinpeter, R-Port Allen, has been among the lawmakers in discussion on bills that would call for longer sentences for the makers and distributers. “I think we definitely should toughen the penalty,” he said. “This is a serious drug and we need to take a serious stand to let no drug dealers we’re not playing with them.”