Due to rising heroin use in New Jersey, a bill has been passed that will strengthen penalties for those convicted.

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On Thursday, the Assembly Judiciary Committee approved a bill to combat the rising use of heroin. The drug has become a popular alternative to prescription drugs, and the deaths related to heroin have dramatically increased.

"New Jersey faces a heroin epidemic that is threatening people of all ages, but it's particularly alarming that so many young people are affected by this," said Assemblyman Robert Andrzejczak (D-Cape May Court House) in an e-mailed press release Thursday. "This legislation will allow us to target the sources of heroin in communities across our state and save lives."

Under the new bill, offenders could be charged up to $500,000, and face up to 20 years of imprisonment per recommendation from the State Commission of Investigation of Prescription Pill and Heroin Abuse.