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These are poisonings’: South Carolina parents advocate for stiffer fentanyl penalties

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Numerous parents who have lost their children to street fentanyl are calling on the South Carolina General Assembly to do more against drug dealers.

Currently in South Carolina, there’s no mandatory minimum sentence for people convicted of pushing large amounts of fentanyl. On Thursday, families went to Columbia to plead with lawmakers to take further action.

Amid tears and intense emotions in the legislature, the parents spoke out wanting to make sure their kids’ lives didn’t end in vain. The lawmakers heard their stories and then talked about ways to create tougher penalties for dealers who push fentanyl.

“I’m hoping they will see faces and see our children on our posters and hear our stories,” said Holly Alsobrooks, who spoke to Channel 9′s Tina Terry about their goal.

Alsobrooks and other parents carried the memories of their children to the state house. Many of their kids died from fentanyl use after taking pills that were laced with the drug.

“His friend had given it to him, and it was 100% fentanyl, there was no Percocet in it,” Alsobrooks said. “None of these kids are wanting to die. These are poisonings.”

The parents attended a South Carolina House subcommittee meeting where lawmakers talked about House Bill 3503, which would create a seven-year mandatory minimum sentence for first-time offenders convicted of trafficking four grams or more of fentanyl or fentanyl-related substances. Sentencing could increase for larger amounts and if the suspect is found guilty of causing a death.

“Nothing changes if nothing changes, the laws in South Carolina need to change,” said Jenna James, another parent in attendance.

But there wasn’t unanimous support for the proposed legislation. One opponent said four grams is such a small amount that people with addictions could be unfairly punished.

“This bill should not be directed at addicts, it should be directed at drug dealers,” said Jae McCullough with the South Carolina Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.

One local sheriff told Channel 9 that he’d use the House bill to take big fentanyl dealers off the streets and not target drug users.

The parents say South Carolina has to start somewhere, and they’re hoping leaders will act soon.

“We have to feel like we’re doing something, we’re making a difference and that our kids didn’t die in vain,” Alsobrooks said.

Two other fentanyl-related bills are also up for discussion during this legislative session. On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed SB1, which allows suspects to be charged with “fentanyl-induced homicide.” The Senate also passed SB153, which would set a mandatory minimum sentence for people convicted of pushing fentanyl.

HB3503 didn’t pass out of committee on Thursday, but lawmakers will schedule another hearing to discuss it further.

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