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A national icon dies of an accidental overdose. A media frenzy develops as public scrutiny focuses on the new, highly potent drug that is suspected of killing him.

At the same time, a measure has been proposed in Congress that would impose harsh new mandatory prison sentences for offenses involving tiny quantities of the new drug.

The icon, of course, is Prince. The drug is fentanyl, an opioid painkiller up to 50 times more powerful than heroin. The amendment, offered to a defense policy bill now pending on the Senate floor, was proposed by Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, which is experiencing a genuine crisis as overdose deaths mount in the Granite State. If approved, the amendment would trigger a five-year mandatory prison sentence for an individual caught with as little as half a gram of fentanyl.

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Image: JohnSeb via Flickr CC BY 2.0

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