Tennessee Bill Would Allow Murder Charges for Drug Dealers in Overdose Deaths

A new bill that originated in the Tennessee Senate would require drug dealers who contribute to the overdose of drug users to be charged with murder.

SB 1754 was introduced in January and is now making its way through Tennessee Senate committees.

“This bill provides that knowingly manufacturing, delivering, or selling a controlled substance or possessing a controlled substance with intent to manufacture, deliver, or sell the controlled substance or a conspiracy to commit one of the above listed offenses must be punished as a second degree murder if the substance involved is a Schedule I or II controlled substance, either alone or in combination with any substance scheduled as a controlled substance by the Tennessee Drug Control Act of 1989, including controlled substance analogues, and the violation resulted in the death of another person,” the bill’s summary says.

Schedule I drugs in Tennessee are defined as “substances [that] have no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse (including illegal substances),” while Schedule II drugs are defined as drugs that “have an accepted medical use with severe restrictions. They have a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence (including most opioids, stimulants [and] barbiturates).”

Second degree murder is a Class A felony in Tennessee, which, according to Tennessee sentencing guidelines is punishable by at least 13,5 years and up to 60 years of incarceration, depending on criminal history.

According to research from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), overdose rates in Tennessee more than tripled between 2011 and 2021. In 2011, 17.2 per 100,000 Tennesseans died due to drug overdoses, a percentage that skyrocketed to 52.6 by 2021.

Fentanyl, the synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin, is to blame for many of those deaths. In 2021, there were 3,038 opioid deaths in the state, accounting for 80 percent of all overdose deaths.

“Between 2015 and 2021, deaths from fentanyl in Tennessee increased by 1518 percent,” according to a report from the Tennessee District Attorneys Conference. “Nationally, the number of fentanyl-related deaths has increased 22-fold from 2013 to 2021.”

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Pete D’Abrosca is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Follow Pete on Twitter/X.



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