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Louisiana Approves Bill to Double Penalties for Heroin Offenders

Mario Tama, Getty Images

Louisiana lawmakers recently introduced a piece of legislation aimed at doubling the minimum prison terms for heroin offenders. It has been over a decade since the state decided to decrease the penalties for heroin addicts and dealers, but apparently, to some, the law is too soft.

Representative Joe Lopinto, who is the sponsor of House Bill 332, says the measure would increase the minimum punishment for “Heroin producers, manufacturers, distributors and dispensers from five to 10 years,” according to Nola.com. Even the average heroin junkie will likely be sentenced to prison: anyone busted for heroin possession stands to be incarcerated for a term of two-years.

“Make it severe. Make people understand, ‘You do heroin, you’re going to do time,” said Louisiana Sheriff Association Executive Director Michael Ranatza.

However, opposing forces argue that the state should not be looking to increase penalties for heroin addicts, but rather focus their efforts on getting treatment for them. Yet, others that would typically vote against such a measure threw their hands up and tendered their support, citing an severe increase in overdose deaths in Louisiana over the past couple of years as the reason for favoring the measure.

“Possession of heroin, to increase the penalties, which is contained in this bill, I believe is taking Louisiana back…This is a public health issue. We shouldn’t be making criminals of people who have gone from Oxycontin to heroin,” said Robert Toale, Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

The measure was met with approval and now moves to the full Senate.

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