Newhouse Introduces Legislation to Combat Fentanyl, Honor Two Sons
Yesterday, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) introduced the William and James Wonacott Act of 2023, named after Andrew Wonacott of Yakima’s two sons who succumbed to fentanyl, to combat this deadly epidemic.
The legislation will enhance penalties for those who sell, give, or distribute any substance that contains two milligrams or more of illicit fentanyl or fentanyl-related substances to another person without their knowledge.
“The fentanyl crisis has impacted far too many families in our communities, just like the Wonacott family,” said Rep. Newhouse. “Thank you to Andrew and Brandi for reaching out to me to bring awareness to this issue, and for being a strong voice for their two sons. To honor William and James, this crucial legislation will hold dealers and distributors accountable. Together, we can bring forth real solutions to confront the fentanyl crisis that is plaguing every corner of our communities.”
“The time is right to take action on the fentanyl crisis as it continues to be a huge impact to families and loved ones who have lost someone to a fentanyl-related overdose,” said Andrew and Brandi Wonacott, parents of William and James. “When this legislation becomes law and saves one family from the hurt and grief Brandi and I have had to endure, it is worth it. Thank you to Dan Newhouse’s efforts on this crisis. We are hopeful that Congress passes this legislation quickly with bi-partisan support. Our nation cannot wait anymore, and we must act and do something now to stop this poison from taking a generation from our families.”
”Yakima County is in the midst of a fentanyl crisis,” said Yakima County Sheriff Robert Udell. “The easily attainable drug is found in inexpensive pill-form and mixed into other illegal narcotics. Young people find it easy to find, and the result is dozens of opioid deaths a year just in Yakima County. We must act now to limit the availability of this dangerous drug, and Rep. Newhouse’s bill is one of the ways to do so. His proposal to enact significant mandatory penalties on those who sell fentanyl, often causing deaths, is an excellent way to protect people of all ages. I enthusiastically support Rep. Newhouse’s bill on penalties for fentanyl dealers.”
Read the full text of the bill here.
The William and James Wonacott Act is named after two young men from Yakima who lost their lives to products laced with illicit fentanyl. James Wonacott, 30, passed away in November 2022 and was known as a loving and involved member of the Yakima community. James’ younger brother, William Wonacott, fell victim to the same fate. A United States Air Force veteran and husband, William was only 27 years old when he passed.
The bill would define federal punishments by making selling, giving, or distributing equivalent to first-degree murder, including provisions to do the following:
- Enhances penalties for those who sell, give, or distribute illicit fentanyl-related substances. These actions will result in a minimum of twenty years with possibility of life.
- Enhances penalties if the selling, giving, or distributing results in death. These lethal actions will result in a minimum of twenty-five years with possibility of life.
There are protections in place for medical professionals and pharmacists when fentanyl is used for medical purposes in a safe and legal manner.