North Carolina’s Senate unanimously passed legislation on Tuesday to increase criminal penalties for drug dealers whose distribution of fentanyl and other controlled substances causes an overdose death.
The proposal, which now heads to the House, would create high-grade felony offenses for deaths caused by distributing the powerful synthetic opioid, and for doing so with malice.
It would also increase fines for trafficking heroin, fentanyl and carfentanil — a synthetic opioid generally used as a tranquilizer for elephants and other large mammals — and amend the state’s Good Samaritan law to create limited immunity for someone in possession of less than one gram of fentanyl who calls 911 to report an overdose.
“This piece of poison called fentanyl is killing people every day in North Carolina and all across America,” said Sen. Tom McInnis, a Moore County Republican and primary sponsor, during floor debate.
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Fentanyl was likely involved in the overdose deaths of more than 3,000 North Carolinians in 2021, according to the most recent available data from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.
The bill says dealers with lengthy records who commit these crimes with aggravating circumstances could face more than a decade in prison. Those who act with malice could face more than 30 years in prison. The proposal is supported by the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association.
A previous version of the bill moved through the Senate in 2019 but never made it to the House.
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