Cherry: Protecting our community from illegal drugs

Posted by: Samantha Holifield  | Friday, February 26, 2016 9:01 am

Protecting our community from illegal drugs

There is a growing drug epidemic in Indiana. Our state’s methamphetamine lab numbers are up. The Indiana State Police have reported a 126 percent increase in heroin cases since 2012. Due to this crisis, the Department of Corrections has seen an uptick in offender recidivism, a person’s relapse into criminal behavior. To make Hoosier communities safer, House Republicans are committed to curbing illegal drug use and trafficking. While I was unable to attend the first half of this session due to medical reasons, I was happy to see my fellow lawmakers support legislation targeting these problems. I am grateful to be back at the Statehouse working with my fellow legislators. We sent many bills to the Senate for consideration dealing with stricter penalties for dealing in large amounts of narcotics, addressing Hoosier addiction disorders and restricting criminal’s access to the key ingredient used to manufacture meth. 

Indiana led the nation for the third consecutive year in meth lab incidents, with 1,530 occurring last year. The House of Representatives passed several pieces of anti-meth legislation with bipartisan support. It builds on years’ of previous efforts in tackling this scourge, which hits rural Indiana especially hard. Meth use is terrible, but meth labs are far, far worse. They cause explosions, fires and horrific burns that endanger not just the cooks and addicts, but innocent children and unsuspecting neighbors.

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation that specifically targets meth labs. Pseudoephedrine (PSE), one type of over-the-counter cold medicine, is the key ingredient used to cook meth. House Republicans worked to strike a balance between legitimate consumer needs and restricting access for meth cooks. Under our proposal, a Hoosier who has an established relationship with their pharmacy will still be able to purchase PSE. If a pharmacist makes a professional determination that PSE is still needed by those who don’t have an established relationship, Hoosiers will still have the option to purchase PSE with a tamper-resistant coating or a smaller dosage package. A prescription would only be required in the small number of cases in which people do not meet or refuse the above requirements and options. It’s a commonsense measure that will empower pharmacists and law enforcement to protect our communities from the scourge of meth labs.

An essential element to any public safety effort is to keep recidivism rates low and reduce correctional costs for taxpayers. House Bill 1102 would allow increased collaboration between local probation and community corrections and other related agencies. This legislation builds off of a multi-year effort by House Republicans to reform our criminal code with a special emphasis on community corrections, mental health and addiction treatment. Many offenders suffer from mental illness and addiction. These programs when properly implemented are proven to reduce recidivism. For example, the Department of Corrections would be able to provide county jails with evidence-based mental health and treatment services for defendants who enter a diversion program. Providing these services reduces long-term costs for everyone and will help turn a live around, if not save them.

We are also ready to throw the book at the very worst of the worst. Major drug dealers and traffickers could face tougher prison sentences under proposed legislation. Those caught dealing large amounts of meth, heroin or cocaine would have sentences of at least 10 years. This legislation could give courts discretion in determining sentences.

It is my hope that these public safety bills and other measures under consideration this session will strengthen our already vigorous efforts to combat drug dealing and trafficking as a serious crime as well as drug abuse as a mental health matter. Even though I have been out of the Statehouse, I have been keeping up on the issues. I encourage you to visit www.iga.in.gov for more information on legislation we have before us this session. You can also contact me at 317-232-9651 or h53@iga.in.gov.

 

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Rep. Cherry represents portions of Hancock and Madison counties.

He serves as Vice Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.