DENVER (CBS4) – After almost 17 hours of testimony from more than 150 people, a bill aimed at addressing the fentanyl crisis in Colorado cleared its first hurdle at the state legislature. The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill by a vote of 8-3 after adding a contentious amendment.

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It makes simple possession of 1 gram or more of a drug mixture that has even trace amounts of fentanyl a felony. Just 2 milligrams of fentanyl – the size of a grain of salt – is deadly.

Because the fentanyl sold in Colorado is mixed with drugs like cocaine, Adderall and Oxycodone and because there’s no way to measure how much fentanyl is in the mixture, felony charges are based on the total weight of the mixture not the amount of fentanyl in it.

While the committee largely agreed that selling a fentanyl mixture of any amount should be a felony, it was divided over the amendment to make possession of a fentanyl mixture weighing one gram or more, which is about ten pills, a fentanyl.

Bill opponent Denise Maes says anyone with any drug of any amount will now be charged with a felony if the drug has even a trace amount of fentanyl.

“There are a lot of drugs that are laced with a little bit of fentanyl that now because of what was done in this House committee,” said bill supporter Tom Raynes, Executive Director of the District Attorneys Council. He says just one pill can kill.

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“No pill is the same, so the amounts of fentanyl in each individual pill vary wildly. Why do they vary? Because they’re created by drug dealers who really don’t care if you get the right dose. So, when the DEA says the potentially lethal amount is 2 milligrams or more, and roughly 40% of these pills sold on the street are in that category, you’re looking at four out of ten pills that can kill someone.”

Republicans on the committee tried to make possession of a fentanyl mixture of any size a felony based on testimony from law enforcement, but their amendment failed.

Another key provision in the bill requires mandatory prison for distribution of a fentanyl mixture resulting in death, depending on the amount sold. Right now, district attorneys are left with charging manslaughter, which is probation eligible.

The bill also allocates millions of dollars for treatment, harm reduction like the opioid reversal Narcan and criminal investigations.

The bill now heads to the appropriations committee before going to the floor.

Shaun Boyd