According to the National Institutes of Health, deaths from synthetic opioids such as Fentanyl increased 1,000 percent in Virginia from 2012 to 2017. With more than 100 Virginians dying of opioid overdoses every month, the human cost of this crisis is nearly inconceivable. As we continue to lose friends and family members to this crisis, the time has come to say enough is enough.
To combat this crisis, I worked with the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys to pass HB 2528 during the 2019 session of the General Assembly. Long sought by prosecutors, HB 2528 would have allowed drug dealers to be prosecuted for second degree murder if the drugs they provide directly contribute to the death of the user.
What many of us do not realize is that many drug dealers under current law can only be charged with distribution. Even if their drugs cause death, they are typically out on bail after a few days.
A dose of Fentanyl the size of a grain of salt is all it takes to kill someone. A drug dealer who sells someone drugs laced with Fentanyl is no less a killer than if he had pointed a gun and pulled the trigger.
HB 2528 sought to give prosecutors another tool to combat the opioid crisis. During this past General Assembly session, I appreciated the support of Attorney General Mark Herring. Unfortunately, Governor Northam decided this last week that repairing his damaged image was more important than getting justice for overdose victims and their families.
Adding insult to injury, the Governor also vetoed a great bill put forth by my Democratic colleague Kathleen Murphy. Delegate Murphy’s bill, HB 2042, would have sentenced those convicted of multiple abuses against a family member within a 10 year window to a minimum of 60 days in jail. Spousal abuse is all too common, and ensuring that a wife or husband can have a couple of months without the fear of further abuse is critically important.
Both of these bills would have saved lives, both of these bills were bipartisan, and both of these bills are now dead because of Governor Northam. To say I am extremely disappointed with the Governor would be an understatement. I am appalled.
Del. Tim Hugo (R-40)