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Gov. DeSantis approves legalization of fentanyl testing strips

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Sen. Tina Polsky

Sen. Tina Polsky

Fentanyl testing strips will soon be decriminalized following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature of SB 164 on June 28 that was sponsored by Boca Raton Democrat Sen. Tina Polsky.

The measure amends F.S. §893.145 to revise the definition of “drug paraphernalia” to exclude certain narcotic drug-testing products, specifically those products that are used to determine whether a controlled substance contains fentanyl.

Speaking with the News following the bill signing, Polsky said she was pleased this bill is now law.

“I cannot stress enough how important harm-reduction strategies are to reduce the negative consequences of drug use,” Polsky said. “Many families have shared their stories with me about the loved ones they have lost due to fentanyl poisoning, and I knew this was such an important cause. This legislation was always about prioritizing saving lives, and I hope, as a state, we continue to help fight drug addiction.”

Fentanyl is an opioid 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, and Polsky says it’s a key factor continuing the drug overdose epidemic that has seen a 23% rise in the number of deaths due to fentanyl since 2021.

Polsky worked with Republican lawmakers to make the bill stronger.

Prior to its hearing by the full Senate, the legislation’s final committee stop in Senate Rules on March 22 raised concerns regarding the legalization of certain fentanyl test strips. Committee Vice Chair Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, had questions on whether the bill would prohibit assessing the quantities or percentages of the drug in the product.

“What we could be doing is empowering dealers to use fentanyl. We don’t want dealers to have more tools legally in the state of Florida,” Perry told the Rules panel. “I would encourage you to look at that language.”

At the time, Polsky told Perry that if he could think of a way to fix it, she was open to it.

A mere six days following that hearing, Polsky filed an amendment to address Perry’s concerns on March 28 that was voted unanimously out of the Senate the next day. The amended language legalizes only “narcotic-drug-testing products that are used solely to determine whether a controlled substance contains fentanyl.”

Testing strips that could measure or determine the quantity, weight, or potency of a controlled substance would remain illegal.

Polsky said she worked with Perry and Rules Chair Debbie Mayfield, R-Melbourne, on the addition to bring all sides to an agreement.

“I want to thank Chair Mayfield and Vice Chair Perry for working with me on this amendment to make the bill even stronger,” Polsky said. “This amendment addresses the concern that the bill as written decriminalizes equipment that could be used by drug traffickers to test the quality or quantity of the fentanyl and not just the presence of the drug.”

With the signing, Florida became the 36th state to pass legislation decriminalizing test strips, and the measure was lauded by members of both parties.

House co-sponsor Rep. Dana Trabulsy, R-Ft. Pierce, said this bill was lifesaving.

“I don’t think I ever thought I’d live in a world where we have to test drugs for drugs,” Trabulsy said. “You don’t know where those drugs come from, and the best thing we can do is to equip people with the tools that can save their lives.”

The new law takes effect July 1.

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