Over the past few years, the opioid epidemic has been a topic that is steadily picking up steam. Whether you’re in the slums or the burbs, there is a strong chance that opioids, specifically heroin, will affect your life in one way or another. For various reasons, people are turning to dope and/or strong prescription pills to help cope with whatever is weighing on them in their lives. The introduction of the powerful fentanyl, which is a synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine, has made the epidemic even more of a crisis. Due to heroin and homemade pills being cut with fentanyl, more users are dying of overdoses than ever before.
Between 1999 and 2016, more than 12,000 people died of opioid-related overdoses in the state of North Carolina, according to the NC Department of Health and Human Services. In response, the powers-that-be in North Carolina have passed a law that will punish dealers in the event of an overdose death. Last Monday (July 8), Governor Roy Cooper signed the “death by distribution” act into law for the state. According to ABC News, drug dealers would be charged with second-degree murder under this new law and, “The felony charge for the illegal sale of drugs that results in an overdose death allows for a punishment of up to 40 years in prison.”
As part of the law, there is a “Good Samaritan” clause that protects doctors who may prescribe an opioid for a “legitimate medical purpose” and/or pharmacists from prosecution.
The new law has been presented as a means to provide prosecutors with “a new tool to help reduce the number of people dying in North Carolina from opioid overdoses.” It is also proposed to be a way for law enforcement to take “high-level drug dealers” off the streets.
These takes can be deemed somewhat flawed. A new law that punishes drug dealers doesn’t necessarily address the reasons why addicts are seeking out the drugs in the first place. When they lock up one dealer, there will be several others to take his/her place and the users will still find them to get their fix. The prospect of prison time has rarely ever outweighed the need for money when it comes to drug dealers. This new law will probably do little to deter people from selling drugs. Also, exempting doctors and pharmacists is a sketchy move, too. It is common for people to say that medical professionals are the biggest drug dealers fueling the opioid epidemic and they say it with good reason. It seems that doctors and pharmacists do what they can to appease pharmaceutical giants producing the drugs to line their pockets. There are a number of news stories about how doctors overprescribed patients and made pill mills possible with phony diagnoses. Lastly, it is very unlikely that law enforcement will snag the “big fish” they’re looking for. They will probably use evidence to lock up the low-level dealer who sold the fix to the person who overdosed because he/she was trying to make ends meet. Sure, the dealer may flip and give information that leads to the plug’s arrest, but that is an unguaranteed gamble.
So, regardless of how one may feel about the new North Carolina law, it is in effect. Legislators in the state feel that punishing dealers will somehow slow the opioid epidemic down and they are likely looking for examples to make. In recent years, there have been a number of stories in other states where alleged drug dealers, or even friends of drug users, have been convicted in cases relating to overdose deaths and sentenced to long bids in prison. Looks like NC will just be the latest.