GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — “People are losing loved ones every day, every single day,” said N.C. Sen. Michael Lazzara. “If we can save one life, I think we’ve done our job.”
Lazzara sponsored N.C. Senate Bill 321, which amends the North Carolina Controlled Substances Act. The bill was signed by Gov. Roy Cooper in September.
The main component of the bill is it changes the use or possession of fentanyl to a Class I felony.
“The possession of fentanyl will now cause very different, stiffer penalties,” Lazzara said. “Misdemeanors and felonies are very different. Particularly a Class I felony.”
A Class I felony could mean a maximum of five years in prison and/or a fine. But more than just jail time or fines, Lazzara said, is it’s causing lives to be lost.
“Fentanyl is the number one cause in overdose deaths in the country,” he said. “We lost over 20,000 people last year in overdose deaths alone.”
Lazzara is the District 6 Senator for Onslow and Jones counties. He said he’s no stranger to seeing opioid addiction, especially here in Eastern North Carolina.
“For Eastern North Carolina, years ago, Onslow County was number two in opioid overdoses,” said Lazzara. “Living in a military community and being involved in the community, I’ve had the opportunity of working with people that are struggling. I’ve seen friends and colleagues that have struggled.
“We really need to work together to eliminate or eradicate these overdose deaths,” Lazzara said. “Families are being destroyed over addiction particularly opioid addiction.”
Lazzara hopes this bill opens eyes to the harsh realities of this crisis.
“Everybody seems to think I won’t get that heroin that has fentanyl in it, I won’t get that Xanax that has been pressed and has fentanyl in it,” he said. “Stay away, get help and don’t make that fatal mistake of thinking it can’t happen to you because it can.”
If you or a loved one is in need of help with addiction, visit the Eastern North Carolina AHEC website for resources.