In an act that clearly shows federal authorities are finally getting serious about the heroin overdose epidemic, a bill was just introduced to the House of Representatives which would allow prosecutors to seek capital punishment or life imprisonment for drug dealers found guilty of selling Fentanyl-laced heroin.
This bill comes after months of suffering across the United States caused directly by illicit drug suppliers attempting to cut costs while increasing profit by using Fentanyl to cut their heroin. Fentanyl, as we now know, is up to 100 times stronger than it’s cousin, morphine, and initially only intended for treating people with extreme pain such as those suffering from late-stage cancers or intensive surgeries.
Now the once pharmaceutical miracle is being illegally trafficked from China into the U.S. for more devious means. The current Fentanyl abuse
Seeing a need for drastic measures, Republican congressman Tom Reed proposed the Help Ensure Lives are Protected Act. If approved, this bill would allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty or life in prison for people convicted of selling tainted Fentanyl-laced heroin.
Though most of his fellow congressmen agree that the opioid abuse epidemic is of great concern, not all are on board with such strict punishment. The current state of our prison systems already reflects how poorly heavy prison sentences work when it comes to controlling drug trafficking and drug abuse. The majority of the American public already believe too many people are incarcerated for nonviolent, drug related crimes; enforcing the death penalty would only serve to agitate the problem.
Lindsay LaSalle, the senior staff attorney for Drug Policy Alliance, said it perfectly:
“This bill is a doubling down on the very ineffective, harsh and punitive policies that characterize the early war on drugs and which have widely been proven ineffective at reducing drug use.”
She also made the valid point that fear of punishment and ridicule is already a driving force behind many preventable overdose deaths; if we compound that with fear of facing the death penalty, the likelihood of someone reaching out for help in a life-threatening situation becomes virtually zero.
Congressman Reed didn’t respond to this criticism except to say that his bill targets “the worst of the worst dealers, not users.”
Though it is good to see that authorities are getting serious about ending the substance abuse epidemic in the United States- specifically that of Fentanyl-laced heroin- it seems their efforts may be going in the wrong direction. We need programs for aiding communities and individuals affected by addiction, not harsher punishments.