Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Committee Advances Connors-Rumpf-Gove Measure to Combat Heroin Epidemic

Bipartisan-supported legislation introduced by Senator Christopher J. Connors, Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove to strengthen current State law in a comprehensive effort to combat the growing heroin epidemic was advanced today by the Assembly Judiciary Committee. The delegation’s initiative was developed as part of a collaborative effort with the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.

Senator Conners, Assemblyman Rumpf and Assemblywoman Gove represent Galloway Township as part of Legislative District 9.

By targeting large scale drug dealers, the intent of the 9th District delegation’s anti-drug initiative would be to give prosecutors the option to grade the seriousness of a drug distribution offense by the number of dosage units involved rather than the actual weight of the drugs.

“The increasing number of deaths linked to heroin illustrates, in the grimmest and most alarming manner possible, the absolutely pressing need to strengthen statutory penalties for drug dealers, especially those involved in large-scale drug trafficking operations. By grading offenses on weight as to the units of a drug being trafficked, existing law limits the severity of punishment that should be brought against a drug dealer based on the nature and extent of their criminal actions. To combat the growing heroin epidemic that has pervaded our communities with deadly consequences, sentences for drug dealers must reflect the level of harm they inflicted on addicts, their families, and the community at large.

“Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato, who has been at the forefront multi-pronged effort to directly combat the growing heroin epidemic, has provided invaluable insight and expertise in developing the legislation. This includes recommending that to more effectively target wholesale drug dealers our legislation require that dealers caught with a 1st degree amount of pure, uncut heroin be subject to an enhanced sentence that consists of 10 years without parole.

“To facilitate the intent of our legislation, we are proposing to revise the narcotic drug provisions of the state’s distribution law to a first degree crime for distributing one or more ounces or 500 or more units, a second degree crime for distributing one-half to less than one ounce or 100 to less than 500 or more units, a third degree crime for less than one-half ounces or less than 100 units. This provision of our legislation was based on recommendations supported by the State Attorney General’s Office as well as county prosecutors.

“Heroin is cheaper to buy than a pack of cigarettes. Addicts resort to stealing, robbery and other crimes to feed their addiction causing a ripple effect with destructive force throughout communities. With increasing regularity, victims are not strangers but neighbors, friends’ children or even family members. The sobering reality is that this is not a crime confined to specific areas of our state. It’s occurring everywhere including suburban and rural areas. While treatment must continue to play a significant role in addressing the drug problem, so must be convicting those large-scale drug traffickers who are at the center of it all.”

As part of their continuing anti-drug efforts, the 9th District delegation authored the law establishing the “Hooked on Fishing-Not on Drugs Program” in the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. “Hooked on Fishing – Not on Drugs” is a proven and innovative approach that teaches angling skills, conservation ethics and social skills, all while promoting self esteem, to effectively deter drug use among youths.


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