Skip to Content

Missouri House committee weighs tougher penalties for fentanyl traffickers


The Missouri House Committee on Crime Prevention and Public Safety on Thursday discussed a bill that would crack down on fentanyl traffickers.

The debate comes after Gov Mike Parson blamed an increase in fentanyl deaths in Missouri to illegal immigrants during his Tuesday press conference on border security

The House bill -- sponsored by Rep. David Casteel (R-High Ridge) -- would hand out tougher penalties for fentanyl traffickers and lower the amount of fentanyl considered a felony offense. Current Missouri law makes it a first-degree Class B felony for anyone who “knowingly distributes, delivers, or produces more than 10 milligrams of fentanyl.” Those with more than 20 milligrams would be charged with a Class A felony. 

Anyone who knowingly possesses, controls, buys, or attempts to buy the opioid would receive a second-degree Class B felony. 

Casteel’s bill would change the threshold from a 10 milligram minimum for a Class B felony, to any amount between 3-14 milligrams. The penalty would stiffen to a first-degree charge if the amount surpasses 14 milligrams.

"The synthetic opioid crisis is evident in my district and in communities across the state. There has been a 75% increase in overdoses in Missouri since 2019. A majority of those overdoses are fentanyl-related," Casteel wrote in a statement to ABC 17 News. "My intent is to save lives by modifying the current statute in ways that enable law enforcement to seek out the source of these illicitly manufactured drugs and drug dealers."

Fentanyl-related deaths have been on the rise across the United States.  According to survey findings published Wednesday by the nonprofit research institute RAND Corporation through a CNN report, about 42% of adults in the U.S. say they personally know at least one person who died from a drug overdose. 

“It is a very dangerous drug that we should be trying to regulate and do something to deter people from using it or selling it. I don’t necessarily have extreme problems with the representative's bill. I do think there is something that we should be doing to keep this out of the hands of kids and pretty much anyone,” said Rep. LaKeySha Bosley (D-St. Louis), who is also a member of the House Committee on Crime Prevention and Public Safety.

Parson announced last month during his State of the State address that tougher penalties for fentanyl traffickers were a top priority. During a Tuesday press conference, Parson criticized President Joe Biden for his “open border policy.” Since Biden took office in January 2021, more than 6.3 million migrants have been detained crossing into the U.S. illegally between points of entry, according to statistics from the Department of Homeland Security.

Parson also cited fentanyl from coming into Missouri as a reason for increased border security. 

“We have seen from the White House that the media has been quick to report without question. One statistic is that 85% of fentanyl traffickers are US citizens and with that, you largely miss the point,” Parson said. “The issue is the Mexican cartel sees little to no resistance in shipping fentanyl across our borders.”  

However, when asked by ABC 17 News if there was a direct link between Fentanyl deaths in Missouri and illegal immigrants Parson was unable to present any evidence. 

“We had 40-some-odd kids that lost their lives last year. Never had that before,” Parson said in response to the question. “We know fentanyl is coming across the southern border and nobody is there stopping it...

"It’s got a little common sense that would tell you that’s where it’s got to be where it's increasing so much.” 

Bosley also argues that blaming all illegal immigrants for fentanyl is part of a dangerous pattern. 

“This is the same conversation back in the (19)60s and (19)50s when they were talking about crack cocaine in Black communities and how Black people were the ones who brought in all these illegal and illicit drugs to their communities and destroyed the United States,” Bosley said.  “You know the war on drugs was a real thing and we are still reaping the repercussions of those policies.” 

She also argues that if Republicans wanted to deal with the immigration issue they would have urged their Republican House colleagues to vote for the bipartisan border bill.

In early February United States senators unveiled a long-awaited cross-party bill that aimed to combat illegal immigration at the US-Mexico border and allow for new aid to Ukraine and Israel. The bill received backlash from conservatives, who say the border policy isn't good enough.

Missouri Democrats also argue that the state is already down more than 500 Missouri State Highway Troopers and sending them to Texas, which has a larger economy and more resources, is a waste when there are other issues to focus on in Missouri. Parson said during his press conference on Tuesday that more than 200 National Guardsmen and 22 MSHP troopers would be going to the border.

According to 2021 data from the Pew Research Center, a large share of illegal immigration occurs due to expired visas.

“When you have states across the country, and even the United States Congress, constantly bringing up illegal immigration and how they are ruining the country; a lot of people who have those expired visas are going to be afraid to come in and renew,” Bosley said. “Let’s be clear, if they are illegally here and unlawfully here, there are ways in which the government has options to either send them back, deport them, get them asylum, or allow them time to figure out how to get status.” 

Article Topic Follows: Missouri Politics

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

Mitchell Kaminski

Mitchell Kaminski is from Wheaton, Illinois. He earned a degree in sports communication and journalism from Bradley University. He has done radio play-by-play and co-hosts a Chicago White Sox podcast.


ABC 17 News is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content