A bill signed into law Monday by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) will allow prosecutors to charge drug dealers with second-degree murder in cases involving deaths from drug overdose.
Reports state that felons could face up to 40 years of prison time if convicted.
Law enforcement officers said the law, referred to as the “death by distribution” act, is necessary to convict high-level drug dealers.
However, the law also has a Good Samaritan clause that protects doctors and pharmacists who prescribe opioids for legitimate medical reasons.
Cindy Patane, who lost her son to an opioid overdose in 2016, said she wants her son’s drug dealer charged with murder.
“That’s the only way you can fix it. You just want accountability,” Patane said during an interview in 2018. “Somebody did this to my boy. Just because Matt made a bad choice doesn’t make your crime less of a crime. Matt had consequences. She should have consequences as well.”
In a revised 2019 summary, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that there were 1,953 overdose deaths in North Carolina involving opioid use in 2017. That is a rate of “19.8 deaths per 100,000 persons compared to the average national rate of 14.6 deaths per 100,000 persons,” the report states.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said it continues to look for solutions to remedy the problem.
“Due to decades of prescribing more opioids at higher doses, North Carolina is experiencing an opioid epidemic,” the website states, adding that it is “working to connect people with preventative healthcare, substance use disorder treatment and community supports.”
President Trump said at the Rx Drug and Heroin Summit in Atlanta, Georgia, in April that he would continue to fight the ongoing epidemic.
“We will not let up, we will not give in, and we will never ever give up on saving American lives,” he said. “We will end this terrible menace. We will smash the grip of addiction.”