'It's killing people;' opioid crisis inspires new legislation

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Lawmakers at the state capitol listened intently as the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner told them if punishments were stiffer, it could dissuade people from selling heroin.

Currently, the mandatory minimum is five years in jail, rolled out as part of the criminal justice rewrite last year. Tuesday, a house committee supported a bill boosting the minimum sentence to 10 years.

Coroner Beau Clark said since punishments have been relaxed, the amount of opioid and heroin-related deaths have gone up.

"It's very prolific," Clark said. "It's killing people. And certainly, the people selling this stuff have no regard for human life."

Those against the legislation argued the bill is a rollback of the action they took last year to reduce the prison population.

"What I'm very very much opposed to is taking the discretion away from the courts on the lower end," said Rep. Joseph Marino, I-Gretna. Saying you can't get a sentence of less than 10 years ever, never, at all. Never. That's going exactly backwards."

The bill made it to the house floor with a vote of 10-6.

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