New Proposal Targets Illegal Opioid And Prescription Drug Suppliers

As House Republicans boost their efforts to combat the opioid and prescription drug epidemic in Tennessee, new legislation has been introduced that would impose tougher penalties on illegal opioid and prescription drug suppliers.

House Bill 786 would enable law enforcement to charge illegal suppliers with voluntary manslaughter when they cause death to a user by unlawfully distributing or delivering controlled substances. The voluntary manslaughter charge in Tennessee is currently a Class C felony and carries a penalty of 3-15 years in prison, as well as a fine of up to $10,000.

Supporters of the legislation hope the bill will reduce access to illegal opioid and drug distribution by creating greater punishment and determent for those who go around doctors and traditional prescriptions to supply the narcotics.

Tennessee consistently ranks at the top of the charts nationally as it relates to prescription drug abuse. In 2015, 1,451 Tennesseans died from drug overdoses, the highest annual number in our state’s history. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that prescription opioid abuse has a total economic burden of $78.5 billion per year in the United States.

House Bill 786 comes only a few days after House Speaker Beth Harwell created the first-ever opioid and prescription drug task force within the General Assembly, a group with the immediate goal of working on legislation and determining best strategies for tackling Tennessee’s opioid problems.

The full text of House Bill 786 can be accessed by visiting the Tennessee General Assembly website at: http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/110/Bill/HB0786.pdf

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