Mahan: Curbing illegal drug use in our communities

Posted by: Samantha Holifield  | Friday, February 19, 2016 8:26 am

Curbing illegal drug use in our communities 

Over the past few years, Indiana has experienced a worsening drug epidemic. These statistics are stark: For the third year in a row, our state has led the nation in methamphetamine lab incidents. The Indiana State Police have reported a 126 percent increase in heroin cases since 2010. Due to this drug crisis, the Department of Corrections has seen an uptick in offender recidivism, a person’s relapse into criminal behavior. House Republicans are committed to curbing illegal drug use and trafficking, and I was proud to support legislation that will make Hoosier communities safer. 

To bolster our existing efforts in preventing drug-related tragedies, the House of Representatives passed several pieces of legislation with bi-partisan support. It is encouraging to see both sides of the aisle setting aside their political differences to address such a serious problem. The legislation we sent to the Senate for further consideration deals with stricter penalties for dealing in large amounts of narcotics, addresses Hoosier addiction disorders and restricts criminal’s access to the key ingredient used to manufacture meth.

Currently, it is a Level 2 felony if a drug trafficker possesses at least five grams of meth, heroin or cocaine and an enhancing circumstance applies. It is also a Level 2 felony, if no enhancing circumstances apply but the amount of drug is at least 10 grams. House Republicans are working on legislation that would make prison sentences for dealers with large amounts of meth, heroin or cocaine non-suspendible, meaning the offender would serve a mandatory minimum of 10 years if convicted. In some instances, Indiana sentencing will be much tougher than federal sentencing guidelines. Hopefully, this legislation will discourage drug dealers and traffickers from peddling their poison in Indiana.

Keeping recidivism rates low is essential to public safety and reducing correctional costs for taxpayers. House Bill 1102 would allow increased collaboration between local probation, community corrections and 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. The Department of Corrections would be able to provide county jails with evidence-based mental health and treatment services for pre-trial release defendants who enter a diversion program. Many offenders suffer from mental illness and addiction. These programs, when properly operated, are proven to reduce recidivism. In the long run, providing these services reduces long-term costs for everyone and helps turn a life around, if not save it. 

The House of Representatives unanimously supported legislation to combat our state’s meth problem. Pseudoephedrine (PSE), one type of over-the-counter cold medicine, is the key ingredient used to cook meth. House Bill 1390 works to strike a balance between legitimate consumer needs and restricting access for meth cooks. Under this legislation, a Hoosier who has an established relationship with his or her pharmacist will still be able to purchase PSE. If you do go to a pharmacy where you don’t have an established relationship, you can still purchase PSE with a tamper-resistant coating or a smaller package of regular PSE. A prescription would only be required in the small number of cases in which people lack pre-existing relationships with pharmacies and refuse the smaller dosage or tamper-resistant options. It’s a commonsense measure that will empower pharmacists and law enforcement to protect our communities from the scourge of meth labs. 

As a former sheriff, I have experienced firsthand the struggles communities face with drug use and repeat offenders. It is my hope that with these bills and other measures under consideration this session will strengthen our already vigorous efforts to combat drug dealing as a serious crime and drug abuse as a mental health matter. I will continue to work for our community down at the Statehouse and at home. I encourage anyone interested in legislation that is being considered by the General Assembly to visit www.iga.in.gov. You can also contact me at 317-232-9509 or h31@iga.in.gov. I am always interested in your thoughts and opinions on matters that affect not only our community but our state as well.  

   

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Rep. Mahan represents portions of Blackford, Delaware, Grant and Wells counties.