DEA Intelligence Report Ranks Fentanyl No. 1 Drug Threat in Chicago
Should dangerous drugs be treated as a health problem or a criminal matter? That is the question playing out in the halls of Congress right now.
U.S. Representative from Illinois, Sean Casten, says that he voted against a bill that would continue a federal ban on the illegal sale of synthetic fentanyl because there’s no instance in history where “criminalizing a drug has prevented its use.”
Still, as the opioid crisis in America rages on, communities in the Chicago area have been hit hard and this question is one close to Illinoisans’ hearts right now.
More Chicagoans Dying from Fentanyl Overdoses Than Gun Violence
The Cook County Medical Examiner reported that in 2019 more people died from fentanyl overdoses than gun violence. For a third of all deaths in Cook County last year, the use of fentanyl was to blame.
With drugs such as fentanyl impacting the lives of so many people, it’s important to understand what the penalties for the distribution and use of drugs such as fentanyl are.
Classifying Controlled Dangerous Substances in Illinois
What you need to know first is that in Illinois, there are five schedules based on whether or not any substance is approved for legitimate medical use and its potential for abuse.
Schedule I Substances: Least Medical Benefit, Most Unsafe
This includes substances such as opiates, hallucinogens, and some opium derivatives that have no recognized medical use, a high possibility for abuse, and are unsafe to use even under medical supervision.
Schedule II Substances: Some Medical Benefit, High Abuse Potential
These are drugs such as opium and coca leaves that have a high potential for abuse, can result in severe physical and psychological dependence if abused but have a recognized medical use.
Schedule III Substances: Solid Medical Benefits, Some Dependence Issues
This schedule includes drugs such as certain steroids that can be abused but have less potential than Schedule I or Schedule II drugs for abuse. They also have a low or moderate physical dependence, high psychological dependence, and an acknowledged medical use.
Schedule IV Substances: Widely Accepted, Low Abuse Potential
This includes drugs such as diazepam that have a lower potential or abuse than a Schedule III drug but also can lead to physical and psychological dependence. They do have an acceptable medical use as well.
Schedule V Substances: Some Medical Benefit, Least Dangerous
This schedule encompasses the least dangerous of drugs that have an accepted medical use but the lowest potential for abuse.
Fentanyl was originally classified as a Schedule II drug in Illinois due to it’s recognized pharmaceutical use in controlling pain for medical patients, and later as a substitute for heroin during recovery. That has changed.
Fentanyl is Now a Schedule I Narcotic in Illinois
While the U.S. has seen a 73 percent increase in deaths caused by synthetic opioids, Illinois has seen a 120 percent increase in the same time period. This has resulted in fentanyl being considered a Schedule I drug.
Aside from being a Schedule I drug, in Illinois fentanyl possession can also result in charges for a level X felony. If you are caught in possession of fentanyl or with the intent to sell it, a fine of up to $500,000 or the street value of the drug can be assessed –whichever is greater.
Because it’s also a level X felony, incarceration can also be ordered as follows:
- For 15 to 99 grams – Six to 30 years in prison
- For 100 to 399 grams – Nine to 40 years in prison
- For 400 to 899 grams – 12 to 50 years in prison
- For 900 grams or more – 15 to 60 years in prison
In addition, an intent to sell fentanyl can increase a prison sentence by up to three years.
One day, legislators may work to assist those struggling with fentanyl addictions, but for now, the overwhelming response to fentanyl possession and distribution is filing criminal charges.
And penalties are steep. High fines and long prison sentences on top of addressing addiction and other underlying reasons for your association with the substance are some of the most important reasons you need an experienced Chicago attorney to help you navigate charges. Reach out if you need us!
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes.