Should Drug Dealers Be Charged with Murder?


It may be the biggest question regarding addiction right now. Passionate and opinionated responses to this question have pitted total strangers against each other and fueled fierce debates across social media. And it is a question we should all be paying attention to. It is one that we should all be thinking long and hard about. Why? Because it is a question that not only decides the fate of some people, but opens up a slew of more questions about the disease of addiction, it’s symptoms, the people involved, and most importantly who is making money off of it.

The question is simple. The answer is not.

As you can imagine there are two VERY distinct sides to the responses. There are a multitude of people who answer with a resounding, “YES! Throw them in jail for life!” Then there are those, who quite often are addicts themselves, who believe that “No, the addict did the drugs.” We want to hear your response but first, we want to shed some light on the reasoning behind this seemingly black and white question that actually has more of a grey area then you would have first realized.

animated picture of two separate 5 person jury panels. one in black and white, the other in color

The Argument Against

So let’s start with the “No” people. These are the people who believe that drug dealers, selling heroin to addicts, who then overdose and die, should NOT be charged with manslaughter/murder or the like.

Their logic seems to run along the same course. Some “no” responses that we’ve collected from the web look like this:

  • “I don’t think so because nobody forced the junkie to stick that needle in them if I buy a 12pk and go kill someone does the clerk at the gas station get charged also since they sold me the beer???”
  • “If someone buys a bottle of Tylenol and commits suicide by swallowing the whole thing, should the store that sold it be charged? No.
  • “I am an addict and I get that things get beyond us sometimes.. But it seems that’s just a new way to deflect the blame.”
  • “No…we are always told our addiction n our actions r our choice…as an addict I agree…I wouldn’t want to blame anyone else for my actions if I died…I understand the family pain n wanting to blame someone…but there will always b another dealer…”
  • “I dont think so…..cigarette manufacturers aren’t charged with murder and 1 in 5 deaths in the U.S is directly related to smoking. The same goes for alcohol manufacturers people know the risk but continue to take those risks.”

The reasoning behind the “No” people seems to be that we all have free will and that personal responsibility for addiction and drug abuse is key. And the addict in some way or another has the choice to do drugs knowing full and well the potential consequences of doing said drugs. The drug dealers are just dealers, and while there are addicts who are demanding the drug, there is going to be someone willing to supply them. So the argument goes, drug dealers should NOT be charged for dealing the drugs that killed an addict because the addict is going to get the drugs regardless. They also seem to use the fact that there are many things that could potentially kill us that we are sold, or able to get and the provider or distributor or owner isn’t charged if it does.

Their argument against the yes seems to be something like this: If you are sold a gun and then go shoot yourself with it is the person who sold you the gun held responsible for your death? Now, what if that gun is unregistered? And you are sold the gun on the street and then kill yourself with it? That example has had its own history of legality.

Food for thought for the ‘no’ camp

Was it the drug dealer that killed the addict or the drug? Was it the drug, or doing too much of the drug? If the addict doesn’t use the drug properly and just used too much and died is it then still the drug dealer’s fault? The ‘No’ people would probably say No, still the addict’s fault.

What if the drug delivered was not what was expected? Of course, drugs don’t come with instruction manuals or ‘nutritional facts’, but the recent wave of heroin overdoses has been directly related to unexpected fentanyl content. If there is such thing as a ‘responsible’ drug user, what should the person addicted to the substance have done? To take it a step further, what if the drug dealer was aware of the reaction this batch of drugs was getting and continued selling it? Certainly, this skirts closer to manslaughter does it not?

Many of our responses in the ‘no’ category acknowledge that addicts themselves are fueling their own habit and have it within their power to change their circumstances. This is in a way empowering and encouraging for the user to seek help, but does not take in to account the reality of an active addiction. Drug abusers often have diminishing ability to choose the right options. If we view the addict as someone unable to make the correct choice, would we not view the person taking advantage of them in a more negative light? If an addict truly has less control over their free-will, at what point do we absolve them from the choices they make? Does the person who continually feeds the uncontrollable habit or disease have any responsibility?

The Argument For Charging The Seller

The “Yes” people feel very strongly about why drug dealers are put in jail. Especially, those dealers who aren’t addicts themselves and are simply preying on addicts. And that is the main argument for the yes people. Dealers are predators. They prey on an addict’s disease merely for profit.

Here’s what some of the “yes” answers that we found to the question of whether or not drug dealers should be charged with murder:

  • “Yes, heroin has actually taken my hometown over. Two of my friends have oded and many of them are straight addicts and it’s ruining their life’s. The worst part is the dealers are all my friends as well selling to there own friends fuckin life’s up just for a quick twenty bucks. If the penalty for selling was more harsh less people would deal which mean less heroin would be available.”
  • “They should get LIFE- for the life they have helped to steal…. sorry- but they PREY on addicts and their disease.”
  • “I’m not really sure why people are trying to justify that it’s ok for drug dealers to be dealing. McDonald’s…hey not illegal, selling alcohol…..hey not illegal…..selling heroin……hey its illegal. The drug dealer who laced his heroin with fentanyl didn’t tell his buyer and his buyer overdosed. I’m sorry but right there it’s called a drug-induced homicide. There are no excuses for these people. Yes everyone has their choice in life but it shouldn’t get cut short because dealers want to make a quick buck. If there were no dealers then there would be less deaths.”

While not all of the “Yes” people are family members or friends of addicts and not addicts themselves, there are some that are addicts, the majority seem to feel very strongly about the situation and why drug dealers need to go to jail. And it makes sense. People are dying due to doing heroin.  Their stance is that drug dealers are out just to make a buck at the expense of someone’s life. Not only that but that the problem starts with the supply. If we get rid of the dealers we may just save one addict’s life because they won’t be able to get the drugs. People shouldn’t be making money off an addict’s desperation.

The argument against the No people seems to be that all their examples are of legal substances and that dealing with one that is illegal is different than say dealing with McDonalds or alcohol.

Food for thought for the ‘yes’ camp

So we have a few questions here:

What happens when the drug dealer is an addict himself or herself? If addiction is a disease in which someone is entangled and can not make rational choices to remove themselves from, should we not examine if the drug dealer is an addict as well? Statistics on this are difficult to find, but it is not hard to imagine someone funding their habit by selling some of their supply.

If we do charge drug dealers, what is the definition of a dealer? Is it anyone who sells any amount of any substance? Is it the friend who sells their friend a bag of heroin who got it from the dealer before that? Should someone who was ‘sharing’ a bad batch be treated the same as someone profiting off of selling drugs?

Anyways, we aren’t taking sides here just wanted to talk about it. And open up some NEW questions.

So what side are you on? Or have you found a middle ground? Is there any right answer?

What do you think? Should drug dealers be charged with murder or not?

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