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Adding xylazine to drug list trumps public records exemption

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(The Center Square) – Adding autopsy reports to a North Carolina public records exemption list within legislation passed last year will not happen in the foreseeable future, according to a state senator.

The amended bill is moving forward, but it needs to clear one more committee before going to the chamber floor for a vote. Sen. Danny Britt, R-Robeson, is hopeful his proposal to add xylazine to the drug list for House Bill 250 will get through.

Xylazine is an animal tranquilizer expanding into the illicit drug market. Also known as tranq, the drug has been linked to increases in overdoses. Criminalization would protect veterinary access to xylazine and give police a tool to charge addicts and get them into treatment programs, though critics say many drug users are unaware when it is mixed in.

The legislation has a wide breadth. It includes death investigations under the jurisdiction of the chief medical examiner; the Indigent Defense Services Commission; driving privileges; people subject to ignition interlock system requirements; and making an offense of death by distribution of xylazine.

The public records exemption on autopsies would have added those reports from the state’s chief medical examiner to a list, if they are part of an unsolved crime investigation file. Once solved or prosecution is complete, access could be granted.

The public records change proposal follows last fall’s lightning rod decision by the Legislature.

Section 27.9 on page 531 of the biennial budget gives custodians of public records in the Legislative Building – commonly referred to as “The People’s House” – the authority to “retain, destroy, sell, loan, or otherwise dispose of, such records.” Lawmakers also removed another section of the law requiring lawmakers to reveal documents and communications related to the redistricting process.

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