“In 2016, a small-time drug dealer in Leesburg, Va., named Darnell Washington sold a customer a batch of what he thought was heroin. It turned out to be fentanyl. The customer shared it with a friend, and the friend died from an overdose.
To combat the opioid crisis, prosecutors have begun treating overdose deaths not as accidents but as crimes, using tough statutes to charge the dealers who sold the drugs. Washington had never met the person who overdosed. But, facing a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 20 years for “distribution resulting in death,” he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of distribution and is now serving a 15-year sentence in federal prison.
I thought about this the other day when it became clear that members of the billionaire Sackler family will most likely soon receive a sweeping grant of immunity from all litigation relating to their role in helping to precipitate the opioid crisis. Through their control of Purdue Pharma, the families of Raymond and Mortimer Sackler made a vast fortune selling OxyContin, a powerful prescription opioid painkiller that, like fentanyl, is a chemical cousin of heroin.”