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A history of fentanyl and the law

Fentanyl is one of the most addictive drugs available. It’s also one of the deadliest. Here in Florida, officials blamed opioids for 3,189 overdose deaths in 2018. Of those, 2,091 were caused by fentanyl.

Because fentanyl is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine, it should not be surprising that it is also highly addictive. Despite how powerful fentanyl is, like other opioids, the brain adapts to it. Over time, users need more and more of the drug to feel its effects until they begin taking life-threatening doses. Every year, fentanyl addiction costs numerous Americans their savings, their jobs, their personal relationships — and, in some cases, their lives.

Often, people who overdose on fentanyl did not even know they were taking it. Heroin suppliers sometimes mix in fentanyl, which increases the risk of a deadly overdose.

Mandatory minimums added to Florida drug laws

A lot of the trend toward fentanyl abuse in Florida is based on the Legislature’s efforts to stop the abuse of other prescription opioids. While overdose numbers due to opioid pills were dropping during the 2010s, overdoses on fentanyl went up, along with heroin and morphine. In response, the Florida Legislature passed a law in 2017 that greatly toughened the penalties for being convicted of trafficking fentanyl or a fentanyl derivative. A sale of just four grams leads to at least three years in prison. The mandatory minimum goes up to 15 years for selling 14 grams or more and 25 years for 28 or more grams.

A criminal law attorney in your corner

As with most drug laws, these mandatory minimums focus on punishment, not treatment. People who are caught with fentanyl are often addicted to the drug. They may be selling it to pay for their own addiction. Prison, especially for someone with no criminal record, is rarely the answer. A solid criminal defense is the only chance for someone charged with a fentanyl-related crime to get fair treatment from the government.

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