/Parker’s Law’ would put drug dealers behind bars for overdose deaths

Parker’s Law’ would put drug dealers behind bars for overdose deaths

Madison resident Rodenbaugh has sponsored workshops in her living room to help people learn how Narcan works, which can reverse opioid overdoses. She began lobbying for Parker’s Law at the state capitol this year. This bill was named after her son and would make it easier to pursue anyone who supplies drugs that cause overdoses. It is a bill that she believes will help prevent deaths such as Parker’s. Rodenbaugh stated, “I feel so happy about it (the bill).” You have to take responsibility for your actions. Rodenbaugh started promoting H.B. 867 was the result of a meeting with John Dowdy, state Bureau of Narcotics Director. She spoke of her son who died in 2014 after he took synthetic LSD from a friend. Skylar O’Kelly was convicted by an Oktibbeha County jury of drug trafficking, second-degree murder and “depraved hearts” murder. Last September, the state court of appeals overturned the conviction for depraved-heart murder. The case is being appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court by the attorney general’s Office. The new bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Mark Baker (R-Brandon), could see people accused of selling or intending to sell drugs face additional 20 years in prison, plus a maximum $1 million fine for each person who is killed or sustains serious bodily injuries from the drug. The bill also includes penalties for heroin and fentanyl transfers and possession with the intent to transfer, which would be higher than what is currently imposed under Schedule I and II drugs. Rodenbaugh observed as members of the House Justice A committee raised their arms in front to Rodenbaugh, showing her the blue wristbands that Rodenbaugh had given and which said, “PARKER’S LAW/ VOTE FOR HBP 867”. The bill passed unanimously in committee. It will now move to the House floor. Supporters of the bill argue that making drug dealers responsible for providing drugs that cause death or injury a crime will make them more accountable. Dowdy stated that the bill would bring Mississippi into line with federal law in handling such cases. Federal guidelines have mandated that 20 years imprisonment be given to anyone who is “death or seriously injured” as a result of trafficking since 1986 when Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act. Baker is introducing the bill for the second time. It was based on recommendations from the Governor’s Opioid and Heroin Study Task Force. Dowdy, who helped shape the legislation, stated that the bill was modified to address concerns about whether it would penalize family members or friends who supply drugs. The version last year, which was defeated in committee, would have allowed prosecutors to bring charges against anyone who supplied drugs that caused death or serious bodily harm. Prosecutors could also charge someone with drug overdose caused in another person if they are also charged with possession or transfer with intent to transport two or more grams or 10 or more dose units. Baker stated in an interview that any friend who decides to sell you heroin and fentanyl is not a friend. Advocates for drug policy reform say that two grams is too little to warrant prosecution. This could also lead to the targeting of addicts and other drug users. Lindsay LaSalle, director for public health policy and law at the Drug Policy Alliance, stated that drug-induced homicide laws such as the one in Mississippi don’t actually reduce overdose deaths. They continue to increase each year. The Drug Policy Alliance’s 2017 report found that prosecutions of drug-induced homicides involving fentanyl have been increasing in recent years. This is despite the country’s opioid crisis. LaSalle said, “The research also shows that there is a phenomenon known as the replacement effect.” She said that dealers are incarcerated and the drug market is subsumed by new dealers or existing dealers who take a larger share of the market. LaSalle stated that these types of bills were a reaction to a public-health problem. Christina Dent is a leading advocate for drug policy reform and leads discussions about the state. She agrees that the state must address the root cause of deaths due to fentanyl overdoses, by creating a legal, regulated market. Dent stated that Mississippi’s criminal justice reform efforts have been impressive in recent years. This law would be in direct competition to the reforms we’ve seen. While I believe it will help, it will cause a lot more sorrow than good.” Cheryl Howell runs Someone’s Child, a drug awareness group. She said that such a law would discourage people from calling for help in cases of overdose. Howell, who was the mother of a child who died from an overdose in 2014 understands Rodenbaugh’s point of view. Howell stated that Rodenbaugh has a great heart and soul and is trying to help others. At the moment, 20 states, including Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi, have drug-induced murder laws. Many of these laws date back to 1980s. Dowdy estimates that Mississippi could see between 40 and 50 of these prosecutions per year. Dowdy stated that preliminary data from the Bureau of Narcotics has confirmed overdose deaths in Mississippi at around 300. At least 44 of the state’s 82 counties reported one or more deaths. Rodenbaugh stated that she will meet with Phil Bryant about the bill this week. Bryant previously stated his support for such a measure.