North Carolina

Gov. Cooper signs bill allowing drug dealers to be charged with murder

RALEIGH, N.C. — Legislation designed to give North Carolina prosecutors a new tool to convict drug dealers was signed into law Monday.

The bill was among a dozen that Gov. Roy Cooper said on Monday he's signed into law.

The "Death by Distribution" Act makes it a felony to illegally sell drugs that result in an overdose death. It allows prosecutors to charge drug dealers with second degree murder and is punishable by up to 40 years in prison.

Supporters say the law will help fight the opioid epidemic, but critics say it will deter people from calling 911 during an overdose.

The bill does include a "Good Samaritan" clause, which protects doctors and pharmacists who prescribe opioids for medical purposes from prosecution, WTVD reported.

[ALSO READ: New data shows increase in North Carolina opioid deaths]

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, more than 12,000 North Carolinians have died from opioid-related overdoses between 1999 and 2016.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.