GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. – As we approach the anniversary of Prince’s death this week, the drug that killed him is spreading across Minnesota’s streets.
Which is why some prosecutors fear the laws haven’t caught up with the potency of fentanyl.
"We know this is coming, so let’s get out ahead of it,” said Anoka County prosecutor Paul Ostrow.
Ostrow is the lead prosecutor for drug cases for the Anoka County Attorney's Office. He said he along with his colleagues are bracing for what so many other communities are in the middle of right now.
"We’re just starting to see these cases, but it is clear were going to start to see them a lot more,” he said.
The cases involving fentanyl, the dealer usually mixes the opiate with other drugs sometimes unknown to the user, according to experts.
But right now Ostrow says the law treats fentanyl the same as less potent drugs.
"That’s where the law has just not kept up with the potency of fentanyl,” he said.
In the last two years, fentanyl has made its way to the streets of Minnesota, according to national drug trends expert Carol Falkowski.
"So the death of Prince was really on the cusp of this trend,” she said. "And we show no signs here or nationally of a slowdown at all."
Falkowski just released report on drug trends in Minnesota. She found in Hennepin County, opiate overdose deaths increased by nearly 60 percent from 2015 to 2016. And of those cases about 25 percent were fentanyl-related.
Communities across the country report increases of fentanyl-related deaths, as well.
“Because this is so unprecedented and so unparalleled everyone is on a learning curve figuring out what we need to do about it,” she said.
When asked about strengthening the drug laws because of the fentanyl crisis, a spokesperson for the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office said it was not something they were discussing at this point. And Ramsey County acknowledged the problem but a spokesperson said they did not have enough cases to form an opinion about changing the laws.
While Ostrow concedes Anoka County hasn’t see an overwhelming amount of cases, he predicts a lot more are coming. And at the very least, he believes there needs to be a discussion about strengthening the laws at the legislative level.
"The laws that govern control substances have to constantly evolve,” he said.
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