NEW BEDFORD - The New Bedford City Council is supporting Governor Charlie Baker's proposal to make drug dealers whose distribution leads to the death of a user subject to be prosecuted on manslaughter charges.

The motion passed 9-1 and officially puts the council's support of Baker's proposal on record, and furthermore requests that the State Delegation support the targeting of narcotics dealers.

Councilor At-Large Brian Gomes filed the motion in support of Baker and says that something needs to be done to drug dealers distributing deadly fentanyl and other opioids to get them off the streets and dishearten future dealers.

“A stronger and harsher penalty for dealing drugs that result in a death in our city will let the drug dealers know that there are consequences,” Gomes said. “This thing is out of hand and it's been out of hand. This is not just about low-level people it's about the operation.”

Ward Four Councilor Dana Rebeiro was the only vote against Gomes and the change in legal penalties for dealers who kill their users the product they sell. She says that this change would be targeting only the low-level dealers and is leaving out who she says is the primary culprit, pharmaceutical companies.

“To me it's very frustrating that it's just the small local drug dealers we're going after when we have pharmaceutical companies that are equally devastating our community,” said Rebeiro. “Everyone has a role to play in this, but when are we going to hold the people responsible who are getting rich off this?”

Rebeiro also argues that it's difficult for law enforcement to physically prove that somebody participated in an illegal drug deal and has doubts about the overall effectiveness of the plan, if passes by state government.

“I think it's very hard to prove (if somebody participated in a drug deal) and I want to see how it's going to be executed. Like I said, these pharmaceutical drug companies, they need to be held accountable,” Rebeiro said.

For Ward Three Councilor Hugh Dunn, the city should be involved in the treatment of addicts just as much as they are with prosecuting the distributor.

“If you're addicted, we need to get you treatment. But if you're selling drugs, if you're selling fentanyl, we need to put you in jail,” said Dunn.

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