We oppose HB 2797 which would create a mandatory minimum sentence for delivery or manufacture of a drug that plays a factor in another person’s death, also known as a "drug-induced homicide" law. There are more humane and effective ways to reduce harm and death from drug use. This bill is a regressive move back toward the failed War on Drugs and its negative implications for our society.
We acknowledge and empathize with the deep pain that motivates bills like this. The death of a loved one to drug use and addiction is tragic, and unfortunately common. Most people in our society personally know someone struggling with addiction, and a large portion of us have lost one or more loved ones to drug-related harms. We have no doubt that this bill has been introduced as an earnest attempt to stop harm to our communities and loved ones.
Unfortunately, the same and similar drug policies have been tried repeatedly, and have created rather than reduced harm. Similar laws have been in place at the federal level and in other states since the beginning of the War on Drugs. Yet these types of laws have done nothing to reduce rates of drug use, addiction, and overdose.
Beyond failing to reduce drug addiction and overdose, laws like HB 2797 have caused a significant number of problematic and unintended consequences in our communities. For example:
- Laws like HB 2797 discourage witnesses to overdoses from calling 9-1-1, out of fear that they will be arrested and charged with a serious crime.
- Research also shows that in states that have enacted similar laws, the majority of prosecutions are being brought against individuals who do not fit the characterization of a “dealer” at all, such as friends, family, and co-users of the overdose decedent. The majority of these people are struggling with addiction themselves, and need treatment and recovery services, not incarceration.
- In cases that do involve organized drug distribution, the defendants are typically low-level dealers. And again, many of these low-level dealers are struggling with addiction themselves.
- Research shows that these laws are disproportionately used against people of color. This is true despite the fact that people of all colors use and sell drugs at roughly the same rates.
- Laws like HB 2797 divert our limited resources away from our public health system and into a criminal justice system that feeds mass incarceration.