North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) on Monday signed into law a bill that allows prosecutors to charge drug dealers with second-degree murder in the case of an overdose death.
The legislation is aimed at tackling the number of opioid overdoses and deaths, local outlet WTVD reported.
Critics, however, argue that it may deter people from calling 911 if someone needs medical attention.
The new law allows prosecutors to pursue felony charges after an illegal sale results in an overdose. Officials will have to prove malice, a high standard that would possibly make convictions hard to obtain, the The Associated Press noted.
Those convicted could face up to 40 years in prison.
Doctors and pharmacists who prescribe opioids for legitimate medical purposes are exempt from prosecution under a “Good Samaritan” clause written into the bill, WTVD reported.
More than 12,000 North Carolina residents died from opioid-related overdoses between 1999 and 2016, according to the State’s Department of Health and Human Services.
The Hill has reached out to the governor’s office for comment.