Sullivan County DA proposes changing laws to fight opioid problem

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SULLIVAN COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – A local district attorney is proposing changes to drug legislation to help battle the opioid problem in our region.

Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus shared his ideas that he says he hopes the legislature will consider as pieces of the puzzle to fight opioid addiction.

Fentanyl is a drug that, as the Director of the Sullivan County Anti-Drug Coalition, Alice McCaffrey hears about often.

“We’ve heard of people literally taking the dose and falling to the ground immediately, I mean its deadly,” McCaffrey.

But the punishment for those illegally distributing the drug, District Attorney General Barry Staubus says, doesn’t match the seriousness of it.

“It’s a very dangerous drug, however the punishments for it are much lower than methamphetamine and cocaine,” Staubus said.

That’s why Staubus is proposing more enhanced consequences for illegal fentanyl distribution.

He also has another hope for a legislative change.

“If you furnish, distribute, sell a schedule 1 or 2 drug and someone dies as a result of taking a schedule 1 or 2 drug, it is second degree murder. However, if someone dies as a result of other drugs or a combination of one, schedule 1 or 2 drugs, it is not a crime,” said Staubus.

Staubus says a loophole in the law right now doesn’t cover multi-drug related deaths.

“There is no punishment at all, so I think there needs to be a punishment and I think that we would need to craft a law that would allow some punishment for these kind of cases and it should be a serious punishment, a felony punishment,” said Staubus.

Though Staubus says he doesn’t know the exact punishments that could be at this time, he’s hopeful the legislature will consider his ideas to help solve the region’s opioid crisis.

“I think there are a number of answers, and I think it will take a lot of hard work and determination on a lot of fronts, but these are some ideas that I have that I think would be parts of the puzzle toward a solution,” he said.

Staubus said the next steps include talking to local legislators to formulate more concrete ideas.

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