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Drug Kingpins Would Risk Long Sentences under Shore-Based Bill

Responding to New Jersey’s rampant heroin abuse problem, state legislators from Ocean County re-introduce a measure that would extend the sentences likely for convicted major drug pushers.

The measure (S-209/A-782) would change a core standard that delineates the seriousness of a drug offense. The crime would be graded upon the number of doses of certain controlled dangerous substances (CDS) involved, instead of the weight. Senator Chris Connors and Assembly members DiAnne Gove and Brian Rumpf (R-9) also introduced the bill in the last legislative session.

Distribution of one or more ounces, or 500 or more units, would be a first-degree crime. Dispersal of 100 to 499 doses or a half-ounce to less than an ounce would constitute a second-degree charge. Less than a half-ounce or less than 100 units would translate to a third-degree offense.

Dealers caught and convicted of crimes involving first-degree amounts would be put away for 10 years, minimum.

The lawmakers drafted the bill after conferring with Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato, who has launched a multi-tiered attack against the proliferation of narcotics that left 112 dead in the county in 2013. It has support from county prosecutors throughout the state as well as the New Jersey Attorney General’s office.

The Senate version is under consideration by the upper house Judiciary Committee. The Assembly version awaits action in the Law and Public Safety Committee.

Connors, Rumpf and Gove also shepherded to passage the law that established the “Hooked On Fishing-Not On Drugs” program, operated through the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. Its aim is to teach fishing skills to youths, to cultivate social skills, self-esteem and conservation awareness, and to discourage drug abuse.

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