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New 'homicide by sale of opiate' crime created

New York State may soon have a new way to prosecute dealers who sell heroin or opioids that result in a lethal overdose.

The state Senate passed legislation Tuesday night - known as Laree's Law - to create a new criminal classification of "homicide by sale of an opiate controlled substance."  Supporters of the bill say that under current law too many dealers linked to fatal overdoses only face charges of illegal drug sales.

The bill now moves to the Assembly. It is one of several measures under consideration as lawmakers seek to address the state's heroin and opioid problem.

Lawmakers included more than $200 million in this year's state budget for efforts to prevent and fight addiction, a problem that Republican Senate Leader John Flanagan said could be "the biggest scourge of our time."

“The measures we passed will improve resources for both law enforcement and treatment professionals to help New Yorkers in every corner of our state,” Flanagan said.

“Stiffening penalties for drug dealers, restricting the flow of illegal substances and implementing proven and effective methods of treatment for people in recovery are common sense and strategic approaches to combatting the heroin and opioid epidemic," said Buffalo Sen. Chris Jacobs, Co-Chair of the Senate’s Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction. "These measures reinforce that our resolve to fight against this public health crisis is as strong as ever.”

Additional measures add new derivatives of fentanyl, fentanyl-combined drugs and carfentanil, which are much stronger than heroin. Another measure sponsored by North Tonawanda Sen. Robert Ortt takes into account the lighter weight of heroin compared to other drugs in triggering appropriate level penalties for drug sales.

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