The current heroin epidemic in our area highlights how the law defines a person who distributes (the “drug dealers”) as opposed to a person who is a user that is merely sharing a drug.
While the law does purport to make an exception for those who share drugs, the exception is an extremely narrow one. It only applies if both individual users come into possession of the drugs at the exact same time.
The recognized scenario being a driver and front seat passenger arriving at a supplier’s location together and commingling their money in exchange for a quantity that they will consume together.
The rationale is that you cannot distribute a substance to someone who was always in joint possession of that substance, i.e. you cannot distribute a substance to someone who already possesses that very same substance.
And even under that very narrow exception, if one of the two dies of an overdose, it will be an uphill battle for the survivor to make a showing to a jury, much less to prosecutors pressured to curtail an epidemic, that both came into possession at the exact same time.
Therefore, providing an acquaintance with some of your heroin on Monday with the understanding they will give you some of what they buy on Tuesday equals both friends distributing heroin even though no money was ever exchanged. Even though both were “sharing” their own stashes with each other, the law considers them both to be drug dealers.
Longer Prison Sentences for Drug Dealers?
The point is that it is a gross over-simplification to suggest that a solution to the problem lies in longer prison sentences for dealers and mandatory rehab for users. In reality, the dealers and users are one-in-the-same and only distinguished by chance.
When dealing with an unregulated black market product like heroin, it is only by chance that the bag the user cops does not contain something that can kill him.
Since the vast majority of users will “share” their product with someone else at some point, it is only by chance that the decedent ends up being labeled a victim, as opposed to a predator.
Learn more about the Heroin Epidemic In Ocean County.