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Lawmakers Dig In On Mandatory Minimums Following Spike in Drug Related Deaths

November 16th, 2017 by Jake Stofan
A new report from the state’s medical examiners shows drug related deaths jumped 22% between 2015 and 2016.
The findings may short circuit efforts to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for drug trafficking.
Opioids played a factor in 5,725 deaths last year, a 35 percent increase over the 4,242 Floridans who died the year before with opioids in their system.
Florida’s medical examiners say deaths directly caused by fentanyl almost doubled.
Mark Fontaine, Executive Director of the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association says the numbers are shocking.
“16 a day die this way and indications are the first half of 2017 it’s going to jump to 20 a day die this way,” said Fontaine.
This year three bills have been filed to give judges the option of reducing mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug crimes.
The idea was introduced last session.
It sparked heated debate before ultimately being thrown out.
This year lawmakers are hoping the idea will gain traction, but after the release of the latest medical examiners report, Lawmakers who were already opposed are doubling down.
“Who knows, those numbers may have been higher. Hopefully we’ll be able to get some of these traffickers off the street,” said Senator Kellie Stargel.
“I wouldn’t at all be in favor of reducing minimum mandatories for the dealers and the traffickers,” said Representative Jim Boyd.
Senator Jeff Brandes is sponsoring the most extreme of the mandatory minimum reduction bills.
“We have to stop treating addicts, like kingpins, ” Brandes said.
He says the latest statistics only reaffirm his position.
“When you keep trying to incarcerate our way to less deaths, what we’re going to see is most likely the opposite,” said Brandes.
The effect of major opioid Legislation passed this spring is still a work in progress.
Whether it cut deaths wont be known until next November when there will be a new report from the medical examiners.
The Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association hasn’t taken an official position on the mandatory minimum reduction bills, but it does agree a more treatment based approach needs to be adopted by the state when it comes to dealing with addicts.

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