Denver Mayor Hancock and Gov. Polis are setting the stage for an intraparty showdown as to whether the General Assembly should tighten criminal penalties for fentanyl possession.

Polis and Attorney General Weiser initially said they supported the idea, especially following the tragedy in Commerce City where an entire family was killed by fentanyl overdoses.

However, a bill unveiled by Democrat leadership this week contained no changes to the four milligram possession limit, which remains a misdemeanor offense.


While he commended lawmakers for “attempting to fix the problem,” Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen told The Gazette on Wednesday that he doesn’t know what could justify allowing possession of up to 4 grams of fentanyl to remain a misdemeanor. 


“There is no safe amount of fentanyl on our streets,” he said, nothing that, on average, more than one person dies from a drug overdose in Denver every day. “And we are hopeful that this possession side can be addressed, just based on the level of harm that fentanyl has created.”

To his credit, Hancock responded by demanding Democrats include possession reforms in the legislation.

Meanwhile, Polis and Weiser seem to have entirely abandoned their earlier demands for changes to possession limits, Colorado Politics reports:

Gov. Jared Polis said the legislation will help law enforcement and district attorneys get distributors off the streets, as well as create a path forward for those addicted to those compound drugs.


In a statement on Wednesday, Attorney General Phil Weiser called the proposal a “much-needed stride forward to remove this deadly potions from our streets.” Weiser earlier pressed for increased criminal penalties for fentanyl possession.


“By strengthening penalties for those who knowingly or intentionally deal fentanyl and fentanyl-laced substances that kill people, and offering needed funds for addiction treatment and appropriate harm reduction, this bill gives law enforcement valuable tools it needs to remove dangerous fentanyl and high-level drug dealers from our communities,” he wrote. “And rather than criminalizing those struggling with addiction, it provides support and resources for those who need help.”

This is no small divide.

Hancock is term limited, but it’s pretty obvious he doesn’t want to go down in history as the mayor who presided over downtown Denver turning into a complete hellhole, even if that means crossing Polis.

The governor will have a hard time arguing his hands are tied by soft-on-crime Democrats in the General Assembly.

As the Denver Post acknowledges, Polis has control over his Democrat majorities.

Though lawmakers grumble about the governor’s approach, the last four legislative sessions have shown that with few exceptions, what Polis wants, Polis gets. House and Senate members regularly rewrite bills and allocate money pursuant to his desires, and run bills on his behalf.

The bottom line is, Polis didn’t really want to change the four milligram possession limit.

Why else would he put his name behind a fetnanyl reform bill with such a glaring omission?

However, Hancock’s decision to hold Polis’s feet to the fire is a pleasant surprise.

Whether it will be enough to overcome Polis’s apparent aversion to confronting future Denver mayoral candidate and pro-decriminalization ideologue State Rep. Leslie Herod is another question.

Hancock understands the public wants a stop to the overdose deaths, and fentanyl is Public Enemy Number One.

Polis and the Democrat Party are hoping to bluff their way out of responsibility to keep their progressive, pro-recreational drug base happy with their anti-criminalization policies.

Dead bodies be damned.