America’s Drug Crisis: Is Government Doing Enough?

Join host Tim Constantine on this gripping episode of The Capitol Hill Show as we delve deep into the heart of America’s drug crisis. With opioid overdoses skyrocketing and communities across the nation in turmoil, it’s time to confront the harsh realities head-on.

In this episode, Tim sits down with a diverse panel of guests including Senator James Lankford, a leading voice in the fight against drugs, drug counsellors who are on the ground working the frontlines, and a brave mother – April Babcock, who tragically lost her son to the deadly grip of fentanyl.

Good Answers to Hard (Insensitive,Inappropriate) Questions

I was utterly amazed at the questions people plied me with not long after Dominic’s accident.

They ranged from digging for details about what happened (when we ourselves were still unsure) to ridiculous requests for when I’d be returning to my previous responsibilities in a local ministry.

Since then, many of my bereaved parent friends have shared even more questions that have been lobbed at them across tables, across rooms and in the grocery store.

Recently there was a post in our group that generated so many excellent answers to these kinds of questions, I asked permission to reprint them here (without names, of course!).

So here they are, good answers to hard (or inappropriate or just plain ridiculous) questions:

Continue reading “Good Answers to Hard (Insensitive,Inappropriate) Questions”

Changes to the Death by Distribution Law

The opioid crisis seems to be getting worse every year. NCDHHS reports that in 2021, over 4,000 North Carolinians died from opioid overdoses, up 22% from the prior year. Most deaths were related to the consumption of fentanyl.

One strategy for addressing the epidemic is punishing those who distribute deadly drugs. In 2019, the General Assembly enacted G.S. 14-18.4, making it a felony to sell a controlled substance that causes the death of a user. The law is commonly known as the death by distribution law. This session, the General Assembly passed a revised version of the law. This post explains the revisions.

The original law. The 2019 law made it a Class C felony to (1) sell a qualifying drug, including an opioid, cocaine, or methamphetamine (2) thereby proximately causing (3) the death of a user. Further, (4) the defendant must have acted “without malice,” perhaps because a person acting with malice could potentially be prosecuted for Class B2 second-degree murder by distribution of drugs under G.S. 14-17(b)(2). The 2019 law also created an aggravated Class B2 felony version of death by distribution for defendants with a qualifying drug conviction within the past seven years.

ABC11 has this story about the implementation of the 2019 law. It reports that death by distribution has not been charged at all in most counties, while it has been charged regularly in some others. Shea wrote about the original law here, and Phil wrote about defending death by distribution cases here.

Status of the revised version. Last week, the General Assembly passed S189 to revise the death by distribution law. It passed the Senate 45-0 and the House 81-20. Governor Cooper has not signed it, but it appears that it will become law without his signature shortly. Obviously, the measure passed by veto-proof majorities in both chambers. Unless something unexpected happens, the law will take effect on December 1, 2023, for offenses committed on or after that date. [Update: Governor Cooper signed the measure on September 28, 2023. The effective date remains December 1, 2023.]

Continue reading “Changes to the Death by Distribution Law”

‘Harm reduction’ alliance: Hey, take it easy on the fentanyl dealers

The following OpEd is from the Oct 9 edition of the Carolina Journal.

While most of North Carolina’s political observers have been focused on the long-awaited completion of the state budget, there have also been other bills progressing through the legislature — like SB 189, Fentanyl Drug Offenses and Other Related Changes, which increases fines and penalties for distributing the drug and sets up a task force to come up with new law enforcement strategies.

The bill aims to crack down on fentanyl and other powerful synthetic opioids, a positive step in an environment where over 100,000 people per year are dying of drug overdoses, including over 4,000 North Carolinians. The explosion of these deaths, which used to total around 5,000 people annually nationwide before the new millennium, has made it now the leading cause of death for adults 18-45, higher than other major causes like car accidents or heart disease. Over 70% of overdose deaths are due to fentanyl, an opioid so powerful many immediately overdose and die when they try it for the first time.

State Sens. Tom McInnis, Danny Britt, and Michael Lazzara introduced the bill, which passed the Senate unanimously in March. This week, SB 189 also passed the House, albeit with 20 Democrats voting against. Now the bill heads to the governor for his signature or veto, and at least some on the left think he should choose the latter.

Before the House vote was taken, a coalition of “harm reduction” advocates, including the NC Council of Churches, sent out a press release denouncing the bill.

“Amid State’s Worsening Overdose Crisis, Harm Reduction Advocates Argue SB189 Will Fuel Deaths and Systemic Racism,” the statement begins.

To back the claim that arresting fentanyl dealers will increase overdose deaths, the harm reducers say, “Prosecuting dealers disrupts the drug supply, leading to more preventable overdose deaths.”

This, clearly, ignores the fact that fentanyl dealing is already highly illegal, so supplies are already disrupted when they are arrested. Increasing the fines and penalties on dealers isn’t going to make much difference on that front. But it might act as a deterrent and reduce supply.

The study they cite, from NC State, looked at Haywood County after the original death-by-distribution law was implemented. Either those sending the press release didn’t read it, or they hoped the reader wouldn’t. But the study found the impact of the law was actually a lowering of overdose risk (because dealers lowered potency to avoid the serious charge) in the short term. The study did say there was a possibility of a greater risk in the longer term, but they were unsure, so their biggest takeaway was, “Our study demonstrates most conclusively that further research on the individual and community-level impacts of DIH laws is urgently needed.”

Harm-reduction proponents are fond of calling all their claims “evidence based,” but I’ve found their evidence to be paper thin, like this claim that “prosecuting dealers lead[s] to more deaths” with the study saying mostly the opposite as proof.

After presenting their weak evidence, they go on to demand action based on it: “It is time for lawmakers to recognize the failings of the Drug War, and come to the realization that we cannot punish our way out of the overdose crisis.”

Read the full article on the Carolina Journal website.

The politicization of the fentanyl crisis

The country’s fentanyl crisis has become a potent political weapon, reflecting its deep and emotional impact on millions of Americans.

Why it matters: The opioid epidemic was once a rare topic that brought Republicans and Democrats together. But even as overdose deaths continue to climb, the discourse around fentanyl has become more politicized and, at times, less aligned with reality — especially when Republicans talk about its connection to the U.S.-Mexico border.

  • “When it gets to the front page, sometimes the incentives can be to use it more as a partisan weapon,” said Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral services at Stanford.
  • But also, “there is a human part. Everyone’s upset. We have all these dead bodies. People are burying their children and communities are getting destroyed.”

Read the full article on the Axios website.

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