Severe Penalties for Heroin Possession in NJ
In an effort to stop the epidemic of heroin overdoses and deaths in the state, the New Jersey State General Assembly recently passed legislation that will punish heroin manufacturers and dealers with stiffer penalties for their role in the current pandemic in the state. The main objective to the legislation is to reduce the amount of heroin needed to enforce stiff penalties.
Specifically, for first degree offenses, the threshold will be cut in half, lowering the amount from five ounces to 2.5 ounces of the drug. Second degree offenses would be applied to amounts between 0.17 ounces and 2.4 ounces, and third degree offenses would apply for amounts of 0.16 ounces or less.
Legislators are blaming the increase in heroin use partly on the crackdown of prescription pain killers. Doctors and pharmacists are responding to the growing problem of addictions to pain killers by prescribing and dispensing drugs like Oxycotin far less frequently than in the past. With the demand for these drugs high and the supply low, the addicts are turning to heroin, which is readily available, cheap, and can now be snorted through the nose instead of injected intravenously.
To make matters even worse, the New Jersey division of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced that the purity of the heroin in the state rose from 46% in 2011 to 58% this year, designating New Jersey as the state with the highest rates of purity in the country.
According to a recent article in the Star Ledger, there were 368 reported deaths directly linked to heroin across the state in 2011, which was 86 more than the previous year. The state no longer records data on overdoses and individual counties in the state generally only report fatal overdoses. This results in the number of actual overdoses from heroin going highly unreported.
By increasing the penalties for heroin traffickers, legislators hope to deter future addicts by sending the message that drug manufacturers and dealers will face serious consequences. By lowering the amount of heroin possession in half, law enforcement officials will be able to arrest and prosecute those responsible for fueling the recent surge in heroin addiction and fatal overdoses.
In addition to imposing greater penalties, the state has also increased its commitment to rehabilitation services. The rate of relapse is high for heroin addicts, but treating the addictions may lower the demand for the drug, which will also help curb the current epidemic.
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