DENVER (CBS4)- The deadly drug fentanyl is seeping into almost every corner of Colorado.
"A lot of people taking fentanyl and some people who are dying from it have no idea they are using it," said Boulder District Attorney Michael Dougherty.
He, along with five other panelists, appeared on a one-hour Community Conversation to air on CBS News Colorado, CBS4's 24-hour streaming service.
Keith Hayes, Director of Recovery at 5280 High School said, "I had a 15-year-old lady die as a result of a fentanyl overdose."
Lawmakers are working on a bill that may both add funding for treatment and stiffen penalties for dealers whose drugs kill. The bill has yet to be introduced.
Rep. Leslie Herod hopes the lawmakers in the state House will soon create a bill, "That would include stiffer penalties, especially dealing that ends in death, that would include more testing strips and medically assisted treatment."
The six panelists include Mesa County investigator Tanya Brechlin; Dr. Shaun Gogarty from Pueblo; Michael Dougherty, Boulder District Attorney; James Karbach, Colorado Public Defender; Keith Hayes of 5280 High School and State Representative Leslie Herod from Denver.
During the Community Conversation on CBS News Colorado, Rep. Herod said, "We have a lot more agreement here than folks would've assumed and that's inspiring."
"This is killing people who unsuspectedly think they are taking a different drug," said Brian Mason, Adams County District Attorney.
Mason is investigating the deaths of five people in Commerce City last month. The victims reportedly thought they were doing cocaine. Investigators suspect it was laced with fentanyl.
Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine. The drug killed 540 Coloradans in 2020 and preliminary data from the state shows fentanyl deaths are up 42% last year.
Fentanyl is a drug made in Chinese labs and is shipped to Mexican cartels. The drugs are then smuggled across the border.
Many in law enforcement are calling for stiffer penalties. A 2019 state law made possession of four grams or less of most drugs including fentanyl a misdemeanor.
Watch the CBS News Colorado original, "Fentanyl Fast Growing Killer" in the above featured video.
for more features.