In Virginia and across the country, many people have urged changes to the criminal justice system to reduce the number of people incarcerated. In particular, drug offenses have led to long-term imprisonment and felony criminal records for many people who face serious obstacles in reintegrating into society. Despite the growing movement for cannabis legalization and the reduction of drug possession sentences, some are still advocating for higher sentences for people convicted of drug dealing and distribution.
The opioid crisis, in particular, has led to calls for stronger crackdowns on drug dealers allegedly involved in distributing fentanyl-like substances or opioid analogs. Due to the potency of these substances, people who use them may be more likely to overdose. These substances are often used to cut heroin or other opioids, and end users, and even dealers, may be unaware that the drugs they are using or selling have been mixed with other substances. Some members of Congress are pushing to make an emergency Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) order classifying fentanyl analogs as Schedule 1 drugs into a permanent placement. The National Association of Attorneys General has also expressed support for the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues (SOFA) Act.
However, criminal justice reform advocates warn that tougher sentences for people accused of dealing will not present a solution to the opioid crisis. They warn that U.S. drug laws routinely fail to distinguish between drug distribution and use, heavily criminalizing the sharing of small amounts of drugs between friends. They also warn that any intensified drug prosecution will fall most heavily on communities of color and impoverished people.
A conviction of drug charges can lead to serious, long-term consequences, including hefty fines, jail time and a felony criminal record. A criminal defense attorney may help people facing drug allegations to challenge police allegations and work to prevent a conviction.