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Will Florida legalize testing tools that prevent drug deaths?

On Behalf of | Jan 23, 2022 | Drug Crimes

Drug paraphernalia laws in states across the country – including Florida – are typically very broad. They often include items that are used to test substances. Florida law regarding paraphernalia includes “testing equipment used, intended for use, or designed for use in identifying, or in analyzing the strength, effectiveness, or purity of, controlled substances.”

However, testing equipment can also be used to help ensure that a substance, even if it’s illegal, doesn’t contain potentially fatal ingredients the user may not be aware is there. Many drug fatalities are caused by people ingesting something they didn’t intend to – like fentanyl. 

Fentanyl testing strips

Fentanyl testing strips have been used by organizations in Florida seeking to reduce these deaths. However, under current law, because they’re considered drug paraphernalia, distributing them is a felony. Possessing them is a misdemeanor.

Two state legislators are introducing bills in both the house and senate that would remove testing equipment from the state’s legal definition of paraphernalia. If the legislation passes and is signed into law, Florida would be one of the first states to make this change.

Fentanyl has swept the illegal drug market in recent years. The synthetic opioid, which is approximately 50 times stronger than heroin, is blamed for causing some two-thirds of overdose fatalities over the past couple of years.

Endorsed by federal health authorities

Even the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has endorsed the use of fentanyl test strips to help reduce opioid deaths. However, in over half of all states, their use and distribution are still illegal.

It remains to be seen how much support there is for the change in the law among legislators – and if Gov. Ron DeSantis would sign such legislation into law if it’s passed. One legislator expressed thoughts shared by those who have been advocating for this change for a while: “When you’ve got 5,000 people dying from drug overdoses, you’ve got to take action.”

In the meantime, it’s crucial to know what the law considers drug paraphernalia. If you or a loved one is facing any kind of drug-related charges, it’s wise to take the matter seriously and seek legal guidance.