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OPINION | Barry Richard: Playing Politics with Opioid Crisis

Photo by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via Getty Images
Photo by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via Getty Images

Here’s a shocker, candidates for public office are using the Bay State’s opioid crisis to win votes. Republican Governor Charlie Baker, who in the past has opposed minimum mandatory sentences for drug dealers has filed legislation this week that imposes minimum mandatory sentences for drug dealers.

Democrat gubernatorial hopeful, Newton Mayor Setti Warren is calling Baker out for what Warren says is a flip-flip on the issue. But is it really? Baker’s bill makes the illegal distribution of drugs, death resulting, manslaughter punishable by a minimum of five years in jail. Warren is right to point out that just three years ago Baker opposed the enactment of additional mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders and supported the repeal of mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses. That was candidate Baker. Three years into his administration and with a whole lot of drug-related funerals on the books it’s not unrealistic for the Governor to have had a change of heart.

Baker needs to articulate the need for the get tough policy he is proposing. As for Warren, if he wants to explain why he thinks it’s not a good idea to go after drug dealers whose poison is killing Massachusetts residents at an alarming rate I am willing to listen. However, if Warren’s case is simply that Baker has had a change of heart, than I suspect his motive is nothing more than political and his argument will be quickly dismissed as such by the voters.

Massachusetts currently has a five year minimum sentence for people who kill while driving while under the influence. A five year minimum for someone providing a fatal dose of opioids just might serve as a deterrent. It is certainly worth a discussion.

Editor’s Note: Barry Richard is the afternoon host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from Noon-3pm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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