Regardless of the advances we make in drug policy reform, there will always be those who have not only not learned from our tragic failures, but who are determined to bring them back with a vengeance.
Last month, Republican Rep. Tom Reed of New York introduced legislation that harked back to what critics call one of the worst relics of the “war on drugs.”
The legislation would allow federal prosecutors to charge a drug dealer with life in prison or the death penalty when they can connect the dealer to an overdose death caused by heroin laced with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid painkiller with 50 times the strength of pure heroin.
And, just in case you’ve forgotten why this is a bad thing (and why we need to get rid of the laws that are still on the books that charge a dealer for the death of a user) remember how these laws end up getting enforced.
To charge someone with drug-induced homicide or a similar charge, the chain of causation that led from purchase to overdose needs to be very clear. Drug dealers with more sophisticated operations don’t tend to put themselves in the types of situations that make it feasible to prove that causation, Kathie Kane-Willis, the director of Roosevelt University’s Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy, told The Southern Illinoisan earlier this year.
Addicts who sell to support their addiction and most often sell to friends or acquaintances do put themselves in those types of situations — like shooting up with the overdose victim.
“If our goal is to save lives, then these laws are counterproductive,” Kane-Willis told The Fix in January. “The majority of people charged under drug-induced homicide laws are drug-dependent folks who were using with a friend or loved one.”