JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Possessing and dealing the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl and certain date-rape drugs would be a felony under a bill Missouri House members advanced on Wednesday.

The measure would make it a first- or second-degree felony to possess or traffic fentanyl — which can be up to 50 times more powerful than heroin — and derivatives such as the even more powerful carfentanil. Penalties range from three years to life in prison, depending on the amount of the drug.

More than 950 people died of opioid overdoses in 2017 in Missouri, according to data from Missouri's Department of Health and Senior Services.

"The opioid epidemic has been something that has plagued every town (and) every city across this state and across our nation," bill sponsor Rep. Nick Schroer told colleagues on the House floor Wednesday. "We're finding ways to combat the opioid epidemic and the very powerful drug of fentanyl."

The O'Fallon Republican said the legislation would not apply to people with prescriptions for fentanyl.

St. Louis Democratic Rep. Gina Mitten, the ranking minority member on the House Judiciary Committee, said fentanyl traffickers have been prosecuted under current laws because the drug is often mixed with other opioids, such as heroin.

But Mitten said adding fentanyl to the state's drug trafficking laws is important because it's now being sold on its own. That's left a loophole for distributors selling pure fentanyl to lower-level drug traffickers, who then can mix it with other drugs and sell it to individuals.

The legislation also would make it a felony to possess or traffic the date-rape drugs GHB and the drug commonly known as Rohypnol.

Schroer's bill initially would have made possession of Rohypnol a lesser offense than other drugs, but House members on Wednesday adopted an amendment by Mitten that made those penalties equal.

The measure needs another vote of approval in the House to move to the Senate.