Bills in Statehouse attack various levels of heroin epidemic

Bills in Statehouse attack various levels of heroin epidemic

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The Statehouse is taking on the fight against heroin.

"We've got to tackle it," said Senator Greg Hembree, (R) Horry and Dillon Counties. "It's not going to go away on its own."

Hembree said last year some bills were filed late in the session centering around the heroin epidemic and he doesn't think they were able to get very far, but this year, he said both senators and representatives are taking a look at a range of bills to combat what's going on with heroin, fentanyl and other synthetic forms of heroin around the entire state.

"We're seeing a tremendous spike in the number of overdoses," Hembree said. "We're seeing a spike in the numbers of deaths."

Hembree filed three bills to address the problem.

One bill focuses on drug dealers who sell to someone who dies.

"If a drug dealer sells a hot load of heroin to a user, they are engaging in an inherently dangerous conduct just by selling it," Hembree said. "If that person dies as a result of that then the drug dealer can be prosecuted."

Under the bill, those drug dealers could face involuntary manslaughter and up to 15 years in prison.

"The way we've written it is sort of a new-form of manslaughter," Hembree said. "It's manslaughter by controlled substance."

If a drug dealer is selling fentanyl or other synthetic forms of heroin, a different bill would make it so the dealer could be charged with drug trafficking.

"Right now they're not included in the trafficking heroin statute, so you can be a heroin dealer and not be subject to these enhanced penalties which doesn't even make sense," Hembree said. "Fentanyl and these other substances are more powerful, are more dangerous, but the penalty is not as great."

Another bill Hembree filed protects people who call in an overdose from prosecution if they were also using heroin themselves.

"It gives you sort of a safe harbor," he said. "If you're a good Samaritan, you don't get prosecuted."

Hembree said these three bills and a package of similar bills filed in the House show an increase in urgency to tackle the heroin problem from the Statehouse down.

"Just pieces in the puzzle of trying to solve a much bigger, complex problem," he said.

Hembree said while it is difficult to get bills through the General Assembly, with both members of the Senate and the House are talking about this topic, which should make passing these bills easier.

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