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What you need to know about Death by Distribution

The opioid crisis cost American taxpayers billions of dollars each year. It also costs thousands of American lives and destroys families. States and local jurisdictions have become increasingly desperate to address these problems. Some programs focus on treatment, but others aim to punish.

Last year, North Carolina passed a law aimed at punishing, which spurred some controversy. According to WHQR Public Media, the law made it possible to charge alleged drug dealers with felonies if someone dies after ingesting meth, cocaine or opioids bought from them.

Similarities with prior laws

This law does not represent the first North Carolina attempt to levy the blame for opioid deaths on dealers. In 1999, the state passed a similar law. At the time, it required prosecutors to prove an intent to harm or malice. Now, prosecutors may not need to prove either of these to bring a successful charge.

North Carolina intends to hold not just street-level dealers liable; another law may apply to doctors. The STOP Act requires doctors to use a database with a statewide reach to determine if the patient recently filled the prescription in another location.

Conflicts with existing laws

The Death by Distribution law does not occur harmoniously with all existing laws. CNN points out that it may even contradict the Good Samaritan law. At the very least, it might prevent people from stepping forward out of fear of facing charges akin to second-degree murder or kidnapping.

Research backs CNN’s concern. It points to a pattern of people feeling less willing to call emergency services when they encounter overdose incidents. This could lead to more people dying from overdoses because they might not receive life-saving treatment in time.