South Carolina’s chief advocate for aging South Carolinians, Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, joined state Sen. Thomas Alexander, R-Oconee, Thursday to bring a new bill to lawmakers. The legislation would make stealing prescription medication from the elderly a felony punishable by time in prison.
According to McConnell, South Carolina ranks 23rd in the nation for prescription overdose deaths, and that number will likely climb as the state’s senior population is expected to double in the coming years. McConnell said leaving prescription thefts unpunished with the increase in seniors would be like “a picnic on an ant hill.” He said the illegal activity hurts seniors deprived of their medication, and adds to a growing addiction problem.
“We just need to make it clean, clear and simple so that violators will be prosecuted and that seniors will be protected from the temptation that exists for others to rob them of their medicine and painkillers that they need,” McConnell said. “It is our intention to provide effective tools to law enforcement community and the solicitors of South Carolina to allow them to charge arrest and pros those who illegally possess and deal with the use and sale of other people’s prescriptions.”
Alexander said the new bill complements existing law, but makes it easier for law enforcement to prosecute lawbreakers. A major change would make the crime punishable not by weight of the drug, but by amount of pills. Another change is increasing the fines and including jail time in the legislation.
“Penalties (now) are such that they can sell two or three pills and make the amount of the fine. It’s the cost of doing business for them, rather than a crime,” Alexander said.