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Senate panel narrowly approves fentanyl bill

The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to review the bill Friday morning.

DENVER — A Senate panel on Thursday evening narrowly approved what policymakers hope is a robust response to Colorado's spiraling fentanyl crisis.   

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted, 3-2, to advance House Bill 1326, after reviewing 19 amendments for several hours. 

The measure is the General Assembly's sweeping attempt to confront fatal overdoses, which have surged nationwide over the past several years, as fentanyl, which is stronger than heroin and lethal in small doses, became an increasingly dominant presence in the illicit drug market.

RELATED: Family of Commerce City victim gave tearful testimony during fentanyl bill debate

More than 800 Coloradans died after ingesting fentanyl in 2021, according to state data. That represents a roughly 50% increase from 2020 and more than triple the number of deaths from 2019.

The panel's narrow vote reflected the clash of tactics and ideology that came into full view soon after legislators unveiled the measure. Lawmakers have since struggled to find a compromise that law enforcement officials and advocates of non-criminal intervention can rally behind.

RELATED: Body camera videos show critical moments that save lives after overdoses

The split in the committee was bipartisan — Sens. John Cooke, R-Greeley, Robert Rodriguez, D-Denver and committee chair Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, voted in favor, while Sens. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, and vice-chair Julie Gonzales, D-Denver, voted no, albeit for very different reasons. 

Read more from our partners at Colorado Politics.

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