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Sheriff supports bill that aims for tougher penalties for drug dealers

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Harford County Sheriff Jeff Gahler

Harford County Sheriff Jim Gahler says he strongly supports a bill that would increase prison sentences for drug dealers convicted of distributing opioids that result in the death of a minor. Gahler was joined at a news conference Tuesday by Mark and Nancy Jones, whose 17-year old daughter Amber, died of a heroin overdose.  "I’m just a mom, and it so important to protect the children --they're so young, they can be easily manipulated," said Jones. "I think we need to do everything we can to help give them a fighting chance and to help law enforcement do their job, which is to fight the heroin epidemic. It's a tragedy--a loss that we have to live with every day, and I just pray that something can be done to protect the children."

Although similar bills have failed to pass, this year the measure has the full support of the Harford County delegation and County State's Attorney Joseph Cassilly. Under current laws, those convicted of drug distribution could face up to 10 years in prison. "One of our changes in targeting dealers is get them off the streets and behind bars where they belong", said Gahler. "Many of these drug dealers wouldn't touch an opioid to save their life. They are in purely profit driven greed and they don't care whether it results in the loss of a life. Of course, there are others who are user/sellers who are selling to support their habits."

Under the proposed bill, those convicted could face 30 years if those drugs resulted in a death.