FILE: Opioid Crisis Fentanyl

This photo provided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Phoenix Division shows one of four containers holding some of the 30,000 fentanyl pills the agency seized in one of its bigger busts in Tempe, Arizona. The problem of fentanyl trafficking is nationwide, with Spokane County in Washington state one of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration's 11 focus areas for sales and use of the dangerous substance. 

(The Center Square) — The South Carolina House of Representatives passed a measure to declare fentanyl a Schedule 1 drug and increase the penalties for anyone who pushes the illicit drug.

H.3503 mandates at least 10 years in prison for a first offense and 25 years for subsequent offenses. It also allows judges to increase the sentence to 25 years for the first offense.

On Thursday, the state House voted to send the measure to the state Senate for consideration.

"This is the first step to helping eradicate fentanyl from our state and protect our children," state House Republican Majority Leader Davey Hiott, R-Travelers Rest, said in an announcement. "Today, drug dealers and those trafficking fentanyl heard loud and clear that the State of South Carolina will not tolerate their activities."

Under the measure, anyone convicted of trafficking between four and 14 grams of fentanyl faces up to 25 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. Subsequent offenses carry a mandatory sentence of at least 25 years and a $100,000 fine.

The penalties increase for anyone convicted of trafficking more than 14 grams — at least 25 years in prison and a $200,000 fine — and for more than 28 grams — up to 40 years in prison and a $200,000 fine.

Lawmakers consulted dozens of law enforcement agencies and hundreds of city and county leaders in drafting the legislation. "Governor [Henry] McMaster’s leadership on this issue was invaluable," Hiott said.

According to a fiscal estimate from the South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, it is unclear what the new penalties might cost the state or how much additional revenue it might collect. The measure could increase local revenue from fines.

According to the estimate, state Department of Corrections officials said that in fiscal 2021-22, the annual total cost per inmate was $32,247, and the state covered $30,044 of the cost. The marginal cost per inmate was $4,836.28, and the state paid for $4,829.76 of that.