State Senate Attacks Opioid Epidemic Through New Legislation

New York Senate passes bill to charge drug dealers with homicide for opioid-related deaths.

The New York Senate recently passed a bill that allows law enforcement to charge drug dealers with homicide if an individual overdoses on a product sold to them outside of legal parameters.

The bill, known as Laree’s Law, carries a penalty of 15 to 25 years in prison. The bill, S2761, is part of a legislative approach to end the opioid epidemic, according to a press release from state Senator George Amedore (R-Rotterdam), co-chair of the Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction.

The legislation is named after Laree Farell Lincoln, a teenager who died from a heroin overdose.

“New York State has made great progress when it comes to the fight against the heroin crisis we are facing in our communities, but there is more work to be done,” Amedore said in the press release. “We need to take on the heroin epidemic from all sides. We need prevention, proper treatment and support for those in recovery, and we need to properly punish those that are bringing these deadly drugs onto our streets.”

The bill is intended to target mid- to high-level drug dealers, according to the release. Laree’s Law passed by a vote of 46 to 17 in the state senate.

Currently in New York, someone who provides an illicit substance that results in death can be charged with criminal sale of the drug, which does not result in accountability.

Additionally, the Senate passed a package of bills that will ramp up existing measures that hold drug dealers accountable and improve regulation of synthetic opioids that are causing a plague of overdoses and deaths. The lawmakers also approved bills that would protect children against opioids and help individuals seek treatment for opioid misuse disorder.

The package of bills build upon measures taken this year to help improve prevention, treatment, recovery, and education for individuals with opioid use disorder, according to the release.

Bill S1127 would criminalize the sale of a controlled substance within 1000 feet of a drug or alcohol treatment center, as drug dealers have been known to target these facilities. This practice can lead to treatment failure and overdose.

Another bill was enacted to ensure that heroin sales are receiving the proper penalties. Bill S880 takes the lighter weight of heroin into account — since heroin weighs less than other drugs, more of the drug is needed to reach the threshold for certain criminal charges, according to the release.

Importantly, S3845 would protect youth from opioids and other illicit drugs. The bill makes selling a controlled substance to a minor under age 14 a class A-II felony.

Additionally, bill S5949 requires healthcare professionals to receive written consent from a minor’s legal guardian prior to prescribing opioid-based treatment. This bill also requires providers to discuss the risks of opioid treatment.

S5949 is sponsored by Senator Fred Akshar, co-chair of the Senate’s Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction, and is intended to prevent youth from becoming addicted to opioids after receiving medical treatment. New Jersey implemented a similar law earlier this year.

“I’m proud of the comprehensive approach the Joint Task Force has taken, traveling the state and listening to those dealing with the heroin and opioid epidemic every day at the ground level. We acted swiftly to help improve access to drug treatment and prevention services and assist individuals in the recovery process, but we have much more to do,” Akshar said in a press release. “Overdose deaths continue to increase and we must do all we can to give law enforcement the tools they need to drive dealers out of our communities. Regardless of your politics, the heroin and opioid epidemic affects us all. I call on the Assembly to show some leadership, put people before politics and fight for our communities by passing this legislative package.”