There are no two ways about it: Drug addiction is tough. It’s hard on the person who is on drugs and it’s hard for their loved ones to watch.
Right now, in the U.S., opioid addiction is a real problem, with a growing number of people overdosing on fentanyl. From a public health standpoint, something needs to be done. But from a legal standpoint, one has to wonder if stricter laws are really the cure or if these laws will just further punish people who are already quite sick?
In February, a bill was introduced in Maryland that would hand down stricter charges and punishments to those who sell fentanyl or fentanyl-laced drugs to people who end up dying from an overdose. If passed, it would not matter if the person who sold the drug knew if fentanyl was in it or not.
Fentanyl: A cheap, highly dangerous drug
Fentanyl is an extremely powerful synthetic drug. It is so powerful, that just a tiny amount — equivalent to a few grains of sugar — can cause a lethal overdose. The drug itself is also cheaper than other drugs, so it is often mixed in to increase the overall volume and potency. Sometimes the person taking the drug knows its mixed with fentanyl, but often times they do not.
Is the dealer to blame?
Many people who sell drugs are on drugs themselves. The people getting caught and charged are mostly not the big kingpins, but are merely people who are selling drugs to feed their own addictions.
All too often, just like how the person taking a drug doesn’t realize that it’s laced, the dealer also does not even realize they are selling something with fentanyl in it. However, if the recently introduced bill passes, this lack of knowledge does not matter. The person who sold the fentanyl would face second-degree murder charges, even if they had no idea that it contained fentanyl.
Are stricter laws the solution?
One glaring issue with the bill is that it doesn’t really address the bigger issue of addiction or go after the kingpin dealers who are actually supplying the drug to the area. Rather, it goes after the smaller dealers, many of whom are drug addicts themselves.
When it comes to drug addiction, people know there’s a threat of legal consequence, but this is not enough to get many people clean. Even if the charge and possible consequences increase to second-degree murder with a 40-year maximum sentence, the addiction itself is often just so powerful that the threat of these consequences is not even a deterrent. This is why many say that we need more treatment options and ways to get people off drugs, to really address the underlying issue of drug addiction.
What do you think though? Are stricter consequences the way to go? Do you support this bill? What other avenues should lawmakers be exploring?