There’s no question about it: The opioid crisis has touched every corner of the country, and North Carolina is no exception.
But, does it really make sense to punish addicts as harshly as possible? Wouldn’t it make more sense to treat the addiction — which many scientists and medical professionals consider a disease — and the addict with compassion?
Lawmakers at the North Carolina General Assembly were bitterly divided over a proposal that would drastically enhance the penalties defendants face if they’re caught robbing a pharmacy or buying stolen prescription pills.
Currently, people who are caught breaking into someplace, including a pharmacy, are usually convicted of a Class H felony — which only carries a potential sentence of somewhere between four months and two years in prison.
Under House Bill 212, a proposal by Representative Carson Smith, himself the former Sheriff of Pender County, the crime would be elevated to a Class D felony. That means defendants would be facing as many as 13 years in prison. Essentially, that would put addicts who break into pharmacies looking for drugs on the same level as people who commit voluntary manslaughter — and would inflict a harsher sentence than those received by people who molest children or assault an officer. Even people convicted of drug trafficking would face lighter sentences.
That proposal doesn’t make sense to some of the other legislators debating over the bill. Representative Marcia Morey, herself a former Durham judge, said of the measure, “I think we’re going just a little too far.”
It’s important to remember that many people who commit drug crimes do so because they are in the grip of an overwhelming addiction. Treatment — not prison — is the better option. If you are facing charges due to a crime of addiction, get the legal help you need to move your life in a more positive direction.