Story at a glance
- A new bill in Florida enhances penalties for the sale of the dangerous and highly potent synthetic opioid fentanyl.
- The bill adds methamphetamine to the list of controlled substances that can subject dealers to capital first-degree murder charges if the drug results in a person’s death.
- The measure also increases penalties if the sale of a controlled substance occurs within 1,000 feet of a substance abuse treatment facility.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Thursday signed legislation to crack down on fentanyl and methamphetamine dealers as overdose deaths in the U.S. continue to break records.
The bill, HB 95, enhances penalties for the sale of the dangerous and highly potent synthetic opioid fentanyl. Under the measure, the mandatory minimum sentence for trafficking fentanyl is increased from 3 years to 7 years for 4 to 14 grams of the drug, and from 15 to 20 years for 14 to 28 grams.
The bill adds methamphetamine to the list of controlled substances that can subject dealers to capital first-degree murder charges if the drug results in a person’s death. Other drugs on the list include cocaine, opium, methadone, alfentanil, carfentanil, fentanyl and sufentanil.
The measure also increases penalties if the sale of a controlled substance occurs within 1,000 feet of a substance abuse treatment facility.
“We can and must lower the demand for drugs through education and outreach programs, but we also must fight the supply of drugs and crack down on dealers and traffickers, particularly of substances like fentanyl,” DeSantis said during a signing ceremony at a firehouse in Polk County, Florida.
“If you are dealing fentanyl you are killing people and you are going to be put in jail. The Biden administration’s reckless open border policy has threatened the safety of all Americans, but certainly of Floridians as we continue to see record amounts,” DeSantis said.
The changes are a result of recommendations from the Statewide Task Force on Opioid Abuse, which the governor put in place in 2019 to develop a strategy to combat the opioid epidemic in the state.
Just this month, preliminary data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed nearly 108,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2021, an all-time record and a 15 percent increase from the year prior.
The spike in fatal overdoses is primarily driven by fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. Deaths from synthetic opioids alone increased from 57,834 in 2020 to 71,238 in 2021.
Fentanyl has permeated the illicit drug market as it is cheap to manufacture and incredibly potent. As little as two milligrams of the drug can be a fatal dose, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the drug is often mixed with other powder drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine, as well as counterfeit pills made to look like legitimate prescription drugs such as Oxycodone and Percocet.
This dynamic has resulted in a trend in which people have overdosed after unknowingly ingesting fentanyl.
In March, a group of West Point cadets overdosed on fentanyl-laced cocaine while on spring break in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and had to be hospitalized.
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