- Associated Press - Thursday, October 1, 2015

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Seeking new ways to clamp down on drug abuse, three Republican lawmakers are proposing the creation of an online registry system for drug dealers, similar to the sex offender registry.

“These people that are selling heroin are ruining peoples’ lives, so is there any penalty that we would not want to be considering?” said House Majority Leader Jack Flanagan, the sponsor of one of the bills.

Each of the bills are slightly different, but outside criminal advocacy groups said creating such a registry is unnecessary and unfair to people who have already served time for their crimes.

“It’s a stupid, gratuitous and entirely unnecessary proposal,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a non-profit that opposes the so-called “war on drugs.” ”It reminds me of the sort of foolish rhetoric and foolish laws that flowed from back at the height of the drug war.”

New Hampshire is facing a growing heroin and prescription drug abuse problem. More than 320 citizens died from overdoses in 2014. In 2013, that number was 193. And officials said that 2015 is on pace to match last year’s numbers. The lawmakers proposing these bills said a registry would act as a deterrent and allow the public to know who the drug dealers are in their communities.

Flanagan’s proposal would only create a registry for convicted heroin dealers and would not include first time offenders. He said inclusion on the registry could cost someone access to certain welfare benefits, but those details have not been worked out.

“We’re going to have to fine tune this,” he said. “I’m not looking for the first time user or seller to end up being on this list.”

A proposal by Rep. James Belanger would only include people on the registry if they’ve been convicted of drug dealing three or more times. As a former police officer, Belanger said he understands the concerns around civil liberties and unfair penalties and is attempting to mitigate those concerns by giving offenders multiple chances. Once someone is on the list, he or she would be on it forever, he said.

“I’m giving them three chances, that makes a big difference,” he said.

Rep. Eric Eastman is also sponsoring a bill to create a dealer registry, but could not be reached to discuss the details.

The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police has not been consulted about any of the proposals.

Devon Chaffee, executive director of New Hampshire’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said people convicted of non-violent drug offenses already have difficulty securing jobs and reintegrating into society.

“Further marginalization of such individuals would threaten to increase recidivism, potentially aggravating the very problem that the proposed bills are presumably intended to address,” she said in a statement.

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