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Fate of Opioid Reform Bill May Rest on Sentencing Debate

May 3rd, 2017 by Jake Stofan
Governor Rock Scott declared a public health emergency in the state today over the the state’s opioid epidemic.
The declaration comes as sweeping legislation to fight opioids is stalled at the State Capitol.
The opioid legislation closes a loophole illicit drug manufacturers have used to stay one step ahead of the law.
It’s the state’s largest effort at combating the opioid problem, but its passage is in danger.
Lawmakers are fighting over whether dealers should face minimum mandatory sentences.
“I certainly don’t think the experiment of repealing minimum mandatories should be on a drug that so little of it can kill people,” said the bill’s Senate sponsor, Greg Steube.
The Senate sent the bill back to the House Wednesday, with an amendment that gives judges the option to override minimum mandatory sentences for fentanyl and other similar opioids.
Currently there are mandatory minimum laws in place for possession of certain quantities of many drugs in the state, including marijuana.
House sponsor, Representative Jim Boyd doesn’t want judges to be able to go easy on fentanyl offenders.
“If we don’t do anything then we’re just allowing the travesty and the death and destruction that fentanyl and carfentanyl have caused in Florida to continue,” said Boyd.
But insisting on tough sentencing could kill the bill.
Senator Randolph Bracy says too many low lever dealers are being swept up.
“My concern is we’re just throwing people away in prison that really aren’t… they’re a culprit but they aren’t the main culprit,” said Bracy.
The decision facing lawmakers is whether to resolve the prison time disagreement or see more people die.
If no agreement is reached, many believe the Governor’s order will help stem the epidemic that is taking ten lives a day.
“That will allow him to dedicate some funds towards a problem that’s costing a lot of lives everyday around the state,” said Senator Jack Latvala.
Lawmakers have until Friday to agree.

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