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North Carolina lawmakers pushing for harsher penalties for drug overdose deaths

CHARLOTTE — State lawmakers are taking new steps to address the opioid crisis by proposing harsher punishments for people who are charged with causing an overdose death.

This weekend, police arrested two men who have been charged in connection with a 2021 overdose death in Union County.

Channel 9 reporter Glenn Counts spoke with the state senator who is pushing to make sentences in these types of cases.

Fentanyl overdoses have created a tidal wave of misery in North Carolina. Too many families have lost loved ones and they want something done about it.

Lisa Hooper told Channel 9 that she lost her daughter Michelle to an overdose last year.

“I’ve tried for years to get Michelle clean and sober. Many halfway houses and rehabs. Many times over,” Hooper said.

To address the pain of families like Hoopers’ the state senate has proposed a bill that substantially raises the penalties for death by distribution.

Senator Ted Alexander, who represents Gaston, Lincoln, and Cleveland counties, is a co-sponsor of the bill.

“The use of fentanyl has just escalated exponentially over the year,” Alexander said.

The proposal goes after drug traffickers and stiffens penalties according to how many grams of fentanyl the person possesses.

Anywhere from four to fourteen grams could get a suspect between five to seven and a half years in prison, along with a $500,000.

Anywhere from fourteen to twenty-eight grams could get a suspect between seven and a half to ten years in prison with a fine of $750,000.

Twenty-eight grams or more could result in a sentence of eighteen to twenty-three years in prison with a $1 million fine.

“We need to take every measure we can to stop it,” Alexander said.

While major drug dealers are the targets, Alexander admits that people who are just sharing drugs could get snared.

“It’s conceivable that, yes, if you’re sharing something like that it may be to you may be more liable in that situation,” Alexander told Channel 9.

The bill, however, does have a good samaritan clause. If a fellow user helps someone who is having a drug overdose, the law gives them a break.

But that only applies if the person has less than a gram of drugs in their possession.

(WATCH BELOW: Family of man says he was wrongfully convicted in woman’s overdose death)