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Why Kentucky Heroin Bill Failed

As a criminal defense lawyer in Northern Kentucky I have a unique opportunity to perceive the problem with heroin on a daily basis throughout Boone, Grant, Campbell, Kenton and other counties around the state. The proposed SB5 passed the Senate 36-1 but died in the House. I have seen FaceBook posts outraged by the political process and complaining that lawmakers are out of touch with the problem.  While I do not doubt that police, EMT, and those involved with the criminal justice system have a much closer appreciation for the dangers of heroin, that does not make the recently suggested litigation the answer.   Problems with SB5 14RS: 1. The bill sought to increase jail sentences and to allow for prosecution as murder people that sell heroin that results in death.  This is grandstanding without any sense of reality.  While this sounds like a positive move, the reality is that no one is going to have a 1:1 link of selling and death.  Most heroin prosecutions are only for possession.  Most trafficking prosecutions are a result of an undercover or sting operation.  Those buying in sting operations do not then ingest then die.  Those that die cannot then point the finger at their dealer.  There is added prosecution for fetal homicide.  There is no doubt this is a tragedy, but is it worse than an addict having and raising a child. This child is going to live a life through the juvenile justice and foster care system.  Expectant addict mothers already know the danger and wish they could stop using, however the urge is too strong.  A more significant penalty is not going to stop their drug use. 2. The bill did seek to increase the availability of Naxolone to users.  Many believe that having this available will only encourage more use. This may save a few lives but will likely also increase dangerous usage.  The fear of overdose will be lessened as they can simply have a friend revive them with this drug, also generic for Narcan.  A new game of OD and recover will be the rage.  Additionally, there is no law necessary to increase the availability of Naxolone to EMT and police. 3. One amendment to the bill sought to create a needle exchange program.  While some understand that this would benefit the users by preventing communicable diseases, the reality is that most voters oppose such a program as it is presumed to lead to additional use.  It is akin to handing out condoms at a public high school... while practically useful and effective, most conservatives believe it sends the wrong message. 4. The bill increased difficulty in obtaining the prescription drug, Zohydro and changed it's schedule as a narcotic.   Of particular note, the bill did increase funding for treatment centers.  It is virtually undisputed that this is needed. While there is little doubt that increased funding is necessary for treatment, many of the add ons and other provisions of the proposed legislation doomed the bill to failure. This is an opinion piece by NKy criminal defense attorney Michael Bouldin.  While criminal defense is a primary concern, often treatment is the best option to prevent those charged from returning to jail.  If you or a loved one has been charged with possession or trafficking of heroin, contact my office for a consultation.  Contact Bouldin Law Firm at mwbouldin@fuse.net or call 859-581-6453 (581-MIKE).

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