COLUMBIA, S.C. – Governor Henry McMaster was joined today by Lieutenant Governor Pamela S. Evette, state and local law enforcement officers, state solicitors, and members of the General Assembly for a ceremonial bill signing of H. 3503, Fentanyl Trafficking, which adds fentanyl-related substances to the list of Schedule I controlled substances and creates the felony offense of trafficking in fentanyl. It also creates increased penalties for trafficking in fentanyl compared to other drugs and establishes minimum sentences.
"Through this legislation, we provide our law enforcement and prosecutors with valuable tools to keep these drug dealers behind bars, helping to combat the unprecedented flood of fentanyl crossing the Southern border and entering our communities," said Governor Henry McMaster. "Going forward, we must continue to crack down on criminals within South Carolina by strengthening our bond reform bill and enhancing penalties for illegal gun possession, effectively closing the revolving door once and for all."
The bill makes it a felony to possess two grains of fentanyl or a fentanyl-related substance knowingly. A first offense is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine, a second offense is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $7,500 fine, and a third or subsequent offense is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
“This legislation ensures that the traffickers who are peddling this poison in South Carolina are subject to serious prison sentences, including mandatory minimums,” said SLED Chief Mark Keel. “I hope this legislation serves as a deterrent to anyone who seeks to profit from this deadly drug. We must do everything we can to reduce supply and save lives.”
In addition, it is a felony to knowingly sell, manufacture, cultivate, deliver, purchase, or bring into this state more than four grams of any fentanyl or fentanyl-related substance. A first offense for trafficking four to 14 grams of fentanyl is punishable by at least seven years and up to 25 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. A second or subsequent offense is punishable by a mandatory term of 25 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. For 14 to up to 28 grams, any offense is punishable by a mandatory term of 25 years in prison and a $200,000 fine. For 28 grams or more, any offense is punishable by a mandatory term of at least 25 years and up to 40 years in prison and a $200,000 fine.
"We have all seen in the news about fentanyl killing our people, and it was time for us to pass a law to stop fentanyl trafficking," said S.C. Rep. Doug Gilliam. "We have crafted a solid, firm bill that has the teeth needed when it comes to taking a bite out of fentanyl traffickers."
The legislation also creates a felony possession of a firearm or ammunition offense for drug dealers. Offenders convicted of possession with intent to distribute, deliver, manufacture, or traffick a controlled substance will be prohibited from possessing a firearm in South Carolina and are subject to up to five years in prison and a $2,000 fine. The firearm and ammunition must be confiscated and delivered to law enforcement.
The bill passed the House 103-1 and passed the Senate 45-0. It took effect on June 15, 2023.