Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Cassville Republican's bill deisgned to attack opioid traffic and distribution

(From Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville)

There is no question drugs are a destructive force in our country and in our communities.

Drugs destroy families, lead to a life of crime and incarceration, and are taking too many lives. Those problems have only grown with the rise of the opioid crisis. 

What starts as a prescription drug treatment for an injury or post-surgery in the form of painkillers often leads to addiction. The addiction continues after the prescription runs out and the user may seek more drugs through deception, doctor shopping and even theft and burglary. 

Somewhere along the way, the individual turns to the streets and heroin, and that leads further down the spiral of desperation and criminality. 

If heroin weren’t bad enough, drug users might then start cutting heroin with fentanyl, a highly-addictive painkiller, fentanyl analogues and carfentanil, a synthetic opioid that is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl. The end of this road, more often than not, is prison and/or, sadly, overdose and death.

There are people left out of this picture who are also victims and feel the pain and devastation of drug addiction: the user’s family and friends. Whether it’s a husband or wife who sees their spouse slipping away, or a child who is neglected or abused by a parent who cares more about getting their fix than feeding or caring for them, drugs are destroying families, and the reverberations are felt for years, as future generations fight the poverty, learned behaviors, and societal costs – all for a little pill or powder.

This epidemic requires our attention and effort to combat and that starts at the source. The War on Drugs is sometimes referred to derisively and dismissed out of hand without thinking about the whole picture. 

Too often, opponents of the War on Drugs point to unreliable statistics or the absence of complete victory to suggest that the United States and the State of Missouri should not do everything possible to prevent the proliferation of the drug trade. I’m not suggesting we lock up every user and throw away the key, but I am suggesting the punishment of the law should be in our arsenal in this fight.

Last year, I filed legislation tackling the opioid crisis from the health care provider side with reasonable limits on first-time prescriptions and strategically located drug take-back kiosks to get drugs off the streets. This year, I filed Senate Bill 6 to attack this problem from the trafficking and distribution side.

First, the bill would update the state’s controlled substance list and create a better process for updating the the list as new drugs hit the street. Prosecutors cannot charge criminals with these new drugs until they are added to the list, so the more quickly they are added, the faster we can get them off the street. Next, the bill makes the manufacture, delivery or distribution of certain illegal drugs that lead to the death of an individual, second-degree murder. Currently, there is no specified crime for drug-induced homicide, and this tougher penalty will give prosecutors another tool to put drug dealers behind bars.

The bill also allows for tougher penalties for nursing home or home health workers who steal certain prescriptions. This is a growing problem, with the consequences of patients not getting the treatment they need and more illegal drugs finding their way into the wrong hands. Lastly, the bill adds fentanyl to the trafficking statutes and creates an enhanced penalty for distributing, delivering, manufacturing or producing fentanyl. This is a very dangerous drug. So much so, the Highway Patrol has changed the way it field screens the drug. First responders and firefighters are often affected, just from close contact. Trafficking charges are different than other types of charges, so adding fentanyl to the drug trafficking statutes allows for enhanced penalties.

This bill won’t solve the whole problem, but it’s another step. Then, we can take another step, and another until we finally start taking our communities back. Our children deserve to grow up in homes without drugs, and no parent should have to face the pain of seeing their son or daughter lose their freedom, or life, to a bag of powder or a needle. We didn’t get to this place in society overnight and we won’t fix it overnight, but we can say, “thus far, but no further.” That starts with saying right is right and wrong is wrong and putting the people responsible for the drug crisis behind bars is right and just.

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