RALEIGH – Today the North Carolina House of Representatives voted to approve a bill that would give local law enforcement sweeping, unprecedented power to look through a person’s entire history of prescription drug use if they are under investigation for any drug crime, even possessing a tiny amount of any controlled substance. The bill was objected to on its third reading, meaning that the House must vote one more time before the bill is sent to the Senate.
“We should not be giving law enforcement officers the power to snoop around people’s medicine cabinets and look at their entire history of prescription drug use without a warrant,” said Sarah Gillooly, Director of Political Strategy and Advocacy for the ACLU of North Carolina. “This misguided approach would violate the privacy rights of innocent people and further stigmatize people with substance abuse issues, making it harder for them to receive proper treatment.”
Senate Bill 616, the Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Enforcement Act, would eliminate the requirement for law enforcement to obtain a court order before searching someone’s prescription records in the state’s Controlled Substance Reporting System, a secure database that tracks controlled substance prescriptions in order to give doctors better information about their patients’ needs. It also opens up a person’s entire history of prescription records at the pharmacy to law enforcement after a single drug charge. State law currently imposes restrictions on law enforcement access to both of these sources in order to safeguard patients’ private medical information against unjustified searches.
S616 is also opposed by groups like the North Carolina Substance Use Disorder Federation and Addiction Professionals of North Carolina, which called the bill a “backwards culture shift away from treating substance use disorder as a disease and toward criminalizing illness.”
UPDATE: This bill has been approved by the legislature and sent to Governor Roy Cooper for his signature.