A few weeks ago I wrote about legislation being considered by the Indiana General Assembly to fight the scourge of methamphetamine in our state. Unfortunately, meth is not the only drug damaging our communities and tearing families apart.
Heroin-overdose deaths have tripled in Indiana since 2010. Nationwide, drug overdose deaths have surpassed car accidents as the number one cause of injury deaths. More can be done to fight drug addiction in Indiana.
A key element in this fight is stopping the drug dealers that feed the problem. This year, lawmakers are working on two important pieces that would give law enforcement better tools to go after drug dealers and keep them behind bars when they are convicted.
Senate Bill 290 closes a loophole that allows some drug traffickers to escape drug-dealing charges and instead be charged with the lesser crime of drug possession. Current law states that the amount of drugs in a person’s possession is not sufficient evidence by itself to charge the person with drug dealing.
SB 290 specifies that someone caught with a large amount of drugs can be charged and convicted for drug dealing based solely on the amount of drugs in their possession. This bill has passed the General Assembly and is ready for the governor’s signature.
House Bill 1235 institutes mandatory minimum sentences for the worst meth and heroin dealers. The bill provides that the sentence for the highest felony level of dealing meth or heroin – Level 2 felony dealing – with a prior dealing conviction can’t be suspended below the 10-year minimum sentence.
Keeping the worst dealers behind bars longer prevents them from trafficking these harmful substances into our communities and feeding addictions.
The other side of the drug epidemic equation is helping Hoosiers who are addicted. A study by the U.S. Department of Justice found that roughly 75 percent of all prison and jail inmates show signs of substance addiction.
Helping people break the cycle of addiction is an important priority, which is why the General Assembly allocated $30 million for addiction treatment grants in last year’s state budget. Treatment programs can help people avoid drug crime and reduce recidivism rates for those already in prison who are seeking a second chance when they are released.
There is no single solution to the drug epidemic facing Indiana and other states across the nation, but I’m hopeful the steps being taken by the General Assembly to stop drug dealers and help those facing addiction will make a positive difference for our state.
As always, I welcome your thoughts and ideas concerning these and other topics. My office can be reached at 800-382-9467 or by email at Senator.Long@iga.in.gov.
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