Florida Bill To Crackdown on Fentanyl Dealers, Could Imprison Pain Patients Who Unwittingly Purchase Counterfeit Drugs
Counterfeit Drugs: House Bill 477, legislature that would require mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of selling, buying, or possessing illegal fentanyl is close to passing. This past week it was approved by the Florida House, and a similar bill is being considered in the Senate. Both pieces of legislation would place fentanyl, carfentanil, and analogs in the same drug class as heroin.
The bill’s detractors claim the legislation could result in the prosecution and imprisonment of pain patients or those addicted to opioid medication who purchase illicit fentanyl. Due to its potency and cheap manufacturing cost, it’s often used in counterfeit drugs on the black market, misrepresented as something less powerful, such as Vicodin.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid up to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Legally, it’s sometimes issued as a painkiller for cancer and major injuries, but most of the fentanyl on the streets is believed to be illicitly manufactured, not diverted from prescription drugs.
Carfentanil is 100 times more potent than fentanyl, making it probably the most powerful depressant drug on the planet. It’s only indicated for use on large animals, such as elephants, and even minor, incidental skin contact could be enough to send a human into an immediate overdose.
The Bill, as written, would require persons convicted of having just 4 grams of fentanyl to get a mandatory three years. Fourteen grams would result in 15 years, and 28 grams would put someone away for a staggering 25 years. Also, judges would not be able to alter sentences, and sellers would face first-degree murder charges if a buyer dies from using the counterfeit drugs they sold them.
The bill is aimed at nabbing dealers, but detractors are worried that patients who are addicted or desperate for relief could face many years in prison if they accidentally purchase fentanyl disguised as another drug.
In recent years, physicians have been cracking down on prescriptions in response to pressure from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among others. In response, patients have been known to look to the black market for help. According to the Pain News Network, more than 1 in ten pain patients admitted to illegally obtaining opioids on the black market last year.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology