Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, told Fox News Digital imposing harsher penalties on fentanyl dealers “is just common sense” after Virginia Senate Democrats voted down a bill in committee that would have done just that.

Several Virginia state Senate Democrats voted down the measure Wednesday to throw the book at fentanyl dealers as the nation sees a spike in opioid overdoses, predominantly involving fentanyl.

Youngkin told Fox News Digital Thursday that five “Virginians on average die every day from a fentanyl overdose,” and “we are facing an overwhelming challenge.”


Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin

Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

“Any person who knowingly and intentionally distributes fentanyl should be charged and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Youngkin declared. “We cannot continue to let makers and dealers get away with murder.

“This should not be a Democrats versus Republicans issue. The fentanyl crisis affects us all. Holding fentanyl makers and dealers accountable is just common sense.”

Youngkin and Virginia Republicans made the bill a priority. The bill would have expanded how a drug dealer could face a murder charge in a purchaser’s death.

The GOP pitched the bill as a criminal deterrent amid the rise in fentanyl overdoses, while the committee Democrats who voted the measure down argued for a substance abuse treatment approach and voiced skepticism of harsher punishments.


Drug paraphernalia (DEA)

“I think the policy difference that we’re encountering in committee here is what’s the right way to attack this? And do we attack it the way we attacked things in the ’90s?” Virginia state Senate Democratic leader Scott Surovell, the committee head, said.

Virginia Senate Republican leader Ryan McDougle said in an interview the bill aimed to overturn a 2014 court decision limiting how far removed a dealer could be from the death of a user and still face a felony murder charge.

Additionally, the committee’s sinking of the bill came a week after a new report found a record number of high school-aged teens died from drug overdoses in 2022, according to a new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Youngkin speaks in Arlington

Youngkin and Virginia Republicans pushed a bill that would have expanded how a drug dealer could face a murder charge in a purchaser’s death. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Boston researchers found that an average of 22 adolescents, ages 14 to 18, died each week in the U.S. from drug overdoses in 2022. 

The death rate for drug overdoses among teens is more than double what it was in 2018, according to the study, “The Overdose Crisis Among U.S. Adolescents.”


A total of 1,125 teens died of a drug overdose or poisoning in 2022, making it the third-leading cause of death for teenagers across the country, behind gun-related injuries and motor vehicle crashes, the report said.

“Fewer teens than ever are actively using drugs, and yet more teens than ever are dying,” senior author Dr. Scott Hadland, chief of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Harvard Medical School, told Fox News.

Fox News Digital’s Bryan Llenas and the Associated Press contributed reporting.

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