We all know that November 8 is a big day. But with all of the news and scandals surrounding presidential candidates taking up most of our nightly news, there is little time to talk about local and state government elections. And while these elections may not have the star power or dramatic twists and turns of the national contest, they may be even more important to your everyday lives. After all, state government controls the way many criminal charges and convictions are treated.
With that in mind, let’s look at the current candidates for Governor of North Carolina. In earlier blog posts, we mentioned the possibility of the state implementing the LEAD program to give a second chance (and the option of rehabilitation) to low-level drug offenders.
This is a huge step in the right direction, but more definitely needs to be done. Will reforms stop with a new governor? How do the gubernatorial candidates view drug crimes and drug legislation? How will they change the system if elected?
Pat McCrory (Republican). McCrory is North Carolina’s current governor. He has been in office since 2013, and his administration has increased funding to drug and mental health courts during that time.
In McCrory’s first year in office, North Carolina Congress passed a bill that would require anyone who had been convicted of a felony drug charge to undergo drug testing in order to receive welfare benefits. McCrory vetoed the bill, arguing that it was a waste of time and money. The veto was overridden, and drug testing began. Very quickly, it became apparent that drug testing was, in fact, a waste of time and money.
McCrory also signed a bill that he believed would address drug trafficking in 2015, House Bill 318. This law is most well-known for its prohibition of “sanctuary cities.” Sanctuary city policies discouraged law enforcement officials from asking people for their immigration status.
Sanctuary city policies allowed many people to stay in America in situations where they would otherwise have faced criminal charges or been deported. McCrory has argued that prohibiting sanctuary cities would decrease the rate of drug trafficking and other types of crimes. However, many say that these arguments are misguided.
McCrory has said that in a second term, he would “follow through” with his actions prohibiting sanctuary cities, as well as addressing issues on drug trafficking and other crimes.
Roy Cooper (Democrat). Cooper currently serves as North Carolina’s Attorney General. His past initiatives have addressed all areas of criminal activity, from corruption to domestic violence. He has proven to be tough on crime, advocating for stronger sentences for child predators and pornographers, as well as stricter requirements for sex offenders.
When it comes to drug crimes, though, Cooper is skeptical about McCrory’s record. He has argued that “under Gov. McCrory, our drug courts have been underfunded and mental-health courts are still pilot programs without adequate state support.” He supports more funding for drug and mental health courts.
In 2015, Cooper urged the United States Congress to support the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, a bill that would aim to help not only North Carolinians, but all Americans who are suffering from opioid abuse. Cooper stated that the bill (which increased access to opioid overdose-reversal drug naloxone, as well as offering alternatives to incarcerated addicts) would help “stop and reverse current trends.”
Additionally, Cooper argued that only 10% of those who needed treatment were receiving it. The bill was passed in the Senate by a nearly unanimous vote.
Lon Cecil (Libertarian). Another candidate to consider is Lon Cecil, running for the Libertarian Party. Cecil has been the most vocal about drug reform. He wants to make changes along every step of the process for arresting those suspected of drug crimes.
He has vocally opposed civil asset forfeiture. He has also mentioned that as governor, he would look through current cases related to drug crimes and consider commutations or pardons for low-level offenders. Cecil wants to look at preventing these crimes by addressing issues including underemployment and limited resources to impoverished people and neighborhoods.
How Drug Crimes Legislation Affects North Carolina
A task force appointed by Governor McCrory announced that the state of North Carolina needs $30 million in recurring funds to go to drug treatment and veterans courts. These specialized courts help to divert low-level drug offenders, many of whom are suffering from substance abuse and mental health issues, away from jail.
Increased funding may allow more low-level offenders to seek rehabilitation and avoid the criminal penalties that are suggested for drug convictions in North Carolina.
If you have been arrested or charged with drug crimes, you have options both at the ballot box and in protecting your rights and future. To give yourself the best chance at a positive outcome in your case, contact a North Carolina drug crimes attorney today.
About the Author:
Jan Elliott Pritchett is Managing Partner at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett and one of North Carolina’s top rated criminal defense attorneys. With a practice dedicated 100% to litigation, Mr. Pritchett protects the legal rights of clients who have been charged in federal and state criminal matters, as well as DUI/DWi, motor vehicle accidents, personal injury, and traffic violations. In practice since 1995, Mr. Pritchett has earned a reputation as a highly talented and fearless lawyer, being listed among the state’s “Legal Elite” and recognized as one of the Top 100 DWI Lawyers in North Carolina by the National Advocacy of DUI Defense. He currently serves as the Co-Chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Legal Specialization, Criminal Law Specialty, and Vice-Chairman of the North Carolina Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section.