February 20, 2020
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Maine lawmakers considering stricter penalties for drug offenders

BDN File | BDN
BDN File | BDN
A small pile of a substance believed to be heroin sits on a scale at the state drug testing lab in Augusta.

AUGUSTA, Maine — State lawmakers are considering a bill supporters say resolves a conflict in Maine’s drug law.

The Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee heard from Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, who said the proposal would correct a conflict between two statutes by once again making possession of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and several other drugs a felony.

Mills said that under a measure that took effect late last year, the punishment for possession is now “a slap on the wrist.”

“A minimum $400 dollar fine, a suspended sentence and a misdemeanor criminal record, no bail conditions, no probation, no drug court, no treatment conditions,” she said. “I know that facing a lengthy sentence is sometimes the only motivating factor for someone to confront their addiction and get the treatment they need.”

But opponents, including Rep. Mick Devin, D-Newcastle, say the state should be focused on locking up drug dealers, not on punishing people — including veterans — who became addicted to opiates while recovering from health problems.

“So you have people that have served this country honorably, done their job, they come back with missing limbs, end up getting shot, something else, and were prescribed a miracle drug that we now know is the scourge of our social network, not only in Maine but all over the United States,” he said.

Devin proposes keeping first-offense possession of heroin and other drugs a misdemeanor and raising it to a felony for subsequent convictions.

 


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