The 9th District legislators have called for a vote on their bill that would strengthen current state law by allowing drug dealing offenses to be graded by units rather than weight of controlled dangerous substances, including heroin.

The legislation was unveiled in May when authorities and officials saw a deadly rise in heroin abuse in Ocean County and southern New Jersey. So far for the year there have now been 89 drug overdose deaths Ocean County and 75 in Atlantic County.

In a letter to Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver, Sen. Chris Connors, Assemblyman Brian Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne Gove, R-Burlington, Ocean, Atlantic, stressed the need for the legislation to combat the rising tide of heroin use and alarming death statistics.

The legislators have been working closely with Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato over the last four months on the legislation.

The legislators stated that the bill would allow prosecutors to charge a defendant with a higher level crime than is permitted under current law. Under their legislation, heroin distribution would be re-graded to make the weights comparable to the weights required for cocaine. Currently, drug dealers who distribute heroin are treated more leniently than those who distribute cocaine, the delegation wrote.

Reclassifying the prosecution of drug crimes would allow law enforcement to target major drug dealers who are now able to avoid incarceration due to the weight classification presently used in drug offenses.

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