GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - The mother of a young Gwinnett County man who died from a drug overdose earlier this year has launched an online petition to rally support for a law toughing punishment for those who sell so called "counterfeit drugs."
Lisa Hicks says her 23-year-old son Joseph Patterson fatally overdosed after a friend sold him what he believed was commonly prescribed pain medication.
“They were counterfeit pills. They were stamped to look like oxycodone, but it was fentanyl," said Hicks.
Fentanyl is used to treat patients in chronic pain including end-stage cancer patients. Experts say it can be 50 to 100 times stronger that morphine or heroin.
The drug has been linked to hundreds of overdoses across the country this year.
Police say Casey Trichel, who is charged with felony murder stemming from the overdose, gave the victim pills that were imprinted with the code for oxycodone.
In Hall County Court Tuesday, Casey waived arraignment and submitted a written not guilty plea to the charge.
"It's heart breaking because this is someone I allowed into my home. He said he never meant to kill Joseph. Unfortunately, that's what he did," Hicks said.
Hicks has launched a petition drive on Change.org to rally support for "Joe's Law." The proposed legislation would stiffen penalties for those who deal dangerous mislabeled drugs.
"We're asking for greater penalties, especially when you're trying to mask or disguise what a pill is, especially with something like fentanyl. Right now, drug dealers are acting like this is a victimless crime. They don't care," Hicks said.
Another provision under the proposed law would require those who witness a drug overdose to call for help, according to Hicks.