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Legislature approves legalization of fentanyl testing strips

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Sen. Tina Polsky

Sen. Tina Polsky

Five weeks following its successful passage in the Senate, the Florida House took up SB 164, the measure aimed at decriminalizing fentanyl test strips under Florida law as drug paraphernalia by Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, and passed the bill unanimously.

The House approved the bill in the waning days of the session. It received rave reviews from members on both sides of the aisle.

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

House companion bill sponsor Rep. Christina Hunschofsky, D-Parkland, said the strips may keep people alive.

“Fentanyl test strips don’t make people do drugs, they don’t stop people from doing drugs, they stop people from dying and that’s the goal,” Hunschofsky said.

Orlando Democrat Rep. Anna Eskamani also stressed the importance of legalizing the test strips.

“We mark the loved ones that we’ve lost to the opioid crisis and the fentanyl crisis and the ability to test is so important and to make sure people aren’t criminalized for that,” Eskamani said.

Rep. Ralph Massullo, M.D., R-Lecanto, said when a drug paraphernalia bill passed a few years ago making fentanyl testing strips illegal, he asked, “Why do we want to do this?’

“The idea was that we didn’t want to encourage people to take fentanyl,” Massullo said. “Well, no one wants to take fentanyl. Everybody knows it’s deadly. The cartels don’t want to kill people, they want people to be addicted so they can make money off our children.”

Massullo said he hopes the bill will stop a lot of deaths but reinforced the point that the drug crisis starts at the border.

“We do need a lot stronger borders to stop the medicine from getting here to begin with,” Massullo said.

The drug overdose epidemic continues to worsen in the U.S. as the number of deaths grew by more than 15% in 2021. Fentanyl deaths have risen 23% during the same time.

To date, 35 of the other 50 states have passed legislation decriminalizing test strips.

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.”

 

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