Bill targeting opioid dealers with stronger punishments signed into law
BY SARA NEALEIGH - firstname.lastname@example.org
A bill sponsored by Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, and Senator Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, that aimed to toughen punishments for drug dealers was signed into law Wednesday.
Gov. Rick Scott signed HB 477, which targets drug dealers by creating and enhancing penalties for dealers and traffickers of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, a drug 50 times stronger than heroin, and its derivatives.
Synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl and carfentanyl — a drug 10,000 times more potent than morphine — is cut into other drugs or sold as heroin.
The bill also adds fentanyl and other synthetic opioids to the list of controlled substances for which a dealer can be found guilty of murder if a user’s death is caused by the drug.
“With this legislation and the declaration of a Public Health Emergency, we are taking great strides in our fight to end opioid abuse. I will continue to work with the Governor, the Legislature and state and local partners to address this issue and save the lives of Floridians,” Boyd said in a release.
“For too many years, the opioid epidemic has devastated families across the state and this legislation is a major step in our battle against this deadly epidemic,” Steube said in a release. “By passing this bill, Florida is sending a strong message to drug dealers that their deadly actions will not be tolerated in our state.”
In May, Scott signed an executive order directing a Public Health Emergency in Florida to combat the opioid epidemic, allowing the state to draw on more than $27 million in federal grant funding.
The impact of the opioid epidemic has been felt locally for years.
Manatee County had the highest number of deaths per capita where heroin, fentanyl, morphine or cocaine were present in 2015. The year before, the county was the only county within the range of the highest number of deaths per 100,000.
In the first half of 2016, fentanyl was listed as the cause of 27 deaths and as present in four deaths in District 12 — which includes Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto counties — according to a Florida Medical Examiners report for the first half of 2016. There were also 12 deaths with heroin in combination with other drugs.