In response to President Trump’s declaration of the opioid crisis as a national public health emergency, the 9th District legislative delegation renewed its call for New Jersey to correct a defect in State law that allows heroin dealers to receive lesser sentences as compared to other drug charges.
Senator Christopher J. Connors, Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove have introduced companion legislation (S-272 and A-1175) which would empower prosecutors to charge drug dealers based on the dosage units rather than the weight of the drug.
The delegation’s legislation, which was drafted in close collaboration with Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato, specifically targets heroin dealers who, under current law, don’t receive sentences equivalent to the severity of their drug crimes. The “units” would reflect how many people might have been injured by the drug dealer’s illicit conduct.
The charge by “units” would apply only to persons who distribute or possess illicit drugs with the intent to distribute. It would not be used to determine the seriousness of “simple possession” drug offenses.
Connors, Rumpf and Gove issued the following statement following these national developments regarding the opioid crisis:
“The heroin epidemic and opioid crisis are inextricably linked. Individuals addicted to certain prescription drug often turn to heroin to continue their addiction.
“In New Jersey, there is a glaring defect in State law with respect to drug charges, which are based on weight. Under current law, the distribution of heroin and cocaine are punishable as if they were the same substance, despite the fact that heroin provides more pharmacological effect from a given weight than does cocaine. As such, heroin dealers are treated more leniently than those who distribute cocaine.
“The declaration of the opioid crisis as a national public health emergency compels us to take all practical measures to protect our communities from drugs. Obviously, addiction treatment will continue to play a substantial role in this effort, as it should.
“However, when considering the sheer scope of this crisis, it is imperative that our justice system be better equipped to target heroin dealers, who by preying on addicts with a cheap but deadly drug, are chief culprits in elevating opioid addiction to the level of a national public health emergency.”