Florida Lawmakers Impose Harsh New Mandatory Minimums for Fentanyl

The Sunshine State ratchets up the drug war.


Ryan Remiorz/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Score yet another win for drug war panics. Florida lawmakers, in response to the increasing number of deaths caused by opioid overdoses, are pursuing a tactic we know is not effective: mandatory minimums.

Today Florida's Senate has added the opioids fentanyl and carfentanil to the list of drugs that will send possessors to prison for a mandatory minimum sentence of three years and possibly much much more.

The three-year minimum is triggered by possession of four grams of the drug, which typically ends up being about seven or eight pills after it's mixed for consumption.

When considering HB 477, the Senate originally agreed unanimously to amend it to give judges a "safety valve" to give less than the mandatory minimum in certain cases, such as when it was clear the defendant was not a trafficker or didn't realize they had bought a drug (like Xanax) on the street with fentanyl in it.

But when HB 477 returned back to the Florida House, lawmakers stripped that safety valve right back out. The drug warriors insisted that these mandatory minimums would catch drug traffickers, not addicts. In reality, that's simply not true, because the law doesn't differentiate between pure fentanyl and fentanyl mixtures. As Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) notes, four grams of pure fentanyl would indeed be thousands of doses on its own, but the law actually states that it just needs to be a "mixture" containing the forbidden substance.

Senators warned that without the safety valve, the mandatory minimums are going to drag in users, not just dealers. From the Tampa Bay Times:

State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, was among those putting up the biggest fight, warning that if a few grams of carfentanil is mixed in a water bottle, the weight jumps and that person could face 25 years in prison for just a few grams. Someone thinking they just had a few grams would be facing significant time in prison unknowingly he argued.

"Addicts have no idea what they are buying," he said.

Unfortunately, the Senate decided to go along with the House and approve the legislation with the safety valve stripped out. More Floridians face long prison terms over this law. Even further, the law also allows prosecutors to charge a person with first degree murder if they provide these drugs to another person who then dies of an overdose.

Sadly, we already know full well that mandatory minimum sentences in Florida drags in thousands of offenders for long prisons terms for low-level offenses. Lauren Krisai and C.J. Ciaramella crunched the data for Reason and calculated that the vast majority of people in prison for opioid "trafficking" were low-level users or dealers. Read their heavily researched analysis here.

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  1. More Floridians face long prison terms over this law.

    Yes, but those are drug dealers and think of all the prisons that need the work. It’s literally a win-win for Florida.

  2. Never change, Florida.

  3. Jesus. Politicians don’t want ill-clothed, poor, desperate immigrants crossing the border. But when AMERICANS who are ill-clothed, poor, and desperate participate in behavior that kills them, the politicians try to pass laws to stop it. MAKE UP YOUR MINDS!!!

  4. But when AMERICANS who are ill-clothed, poor, and desperate participate in behavior that kills them, the politicians try to pass laws to stop it.

    So what are you saying? We should just ban Florida?

    1. Not yet, I still live here!

  5. Few things exist more horrific and macabre than the ‘civilized’ in their chain suits marching pitched against dark fears stark and set ragged against the bleak horizons of goddamn indifference to solutions brimming with logic and objectivity and hope.

    Prisons built to place the unionized thumb-tumbler wait with yawning mouths the soulless blank mercies of the adjudicating elite pumped from the meaty marbled cocks of scholarly fools.

  6. First time I had met a Fentnyl addict back in 2005 (in Florida coincidentally) I thought it sounded like a pretty niche drug. I never would have thought that in a little over 10 years it would be the newest drug politicians were falling all over themselves to get a campaign slogan. That dude was pretty gross though.

    1. Fentanyl is gross and disturbing and it is fucking almost always taken shady-mixed which puts it in a niche of things to be avoided. Though, when pure it does cause the mind to swell and grapple with emerging things once unthought while your chest melts.

      1. Not really. I used to be a fentanyl addict. I would buy fentanyl citrate powder by the milligram and mix up a solution to insufflate. What pure fentanyl does it remind you that you have made some bad choices in life. When you have to put on safety glasses, a dust mask, and protective clothing just to mix up your fix (as a tiny bit of fentanyl dust if inhaled or gets into your eye will kill you), you know you need to make some changes. Having to carry around enough fentanyl to kill an intolerant user is an added bonus. You need to keep your fix on you if you plan to have a job or life because after about 2~3 hours you will start to go into withdrawl.

        Nearly nobody enjoys fentanyl. People only use it because it’s dirt cheap and keeps you out of withdrawl. This law will not change user habits at all.

        1. This guy would buy the patches and cut them open and freebase the stuff inside. I’m not sure if the powder wasn’t available in 2005 or what the deal was back then.

  7. The three-year minimum is triggered by possession of four grams of the drug, which typically ends up being about seven or eight pills after it’s mixed for consumption.

    Don’t they typically (and unfairly) use the total weight in these drug cases? So if you have a bottle with 15mg codeine pills, each pill has 15mg of codeine, plus 250mg of tylenol, plus binders, etc. But if they feel like screwing you over, they just weigh the whole thing and say your 4 pills weigh 1,200mg, getting them to “intent to distribute” much faster.

    I’m pretty sure we had that in a high profile case in Florida from a few years back during the original “pill mill” panic.

    1. A friend turned to this after his Dr. stopped prescribing opiates. He he bought a gram back when I was still legal, carefully it diluted down to the safe dose, and used it for pain relief for over a year and weaned himself off when he ran low. He now he eats NSAIDS like candy,

      Of course most people don’t do moderation very well. This law penalizes safe, dilute concentrations by treating a mixture the same as pure substance. This greatly increases the danger of the product.

      In Truth, fentanyl probably isn’t any much more poisonous than pure nicotine, it’s just that few people don’t run around with pure nicotine, so you don’t have nicotine overdoses.

  8. Its all gone crazy, doctors don’t want to prescribe opiates for fear of the boot stomping DEA agents marching in and tearing their world apart. No matter that their patients suffer from ailments and disorders that cause intense pain, and suffering, which they have the ability to ease by prescribing medications available legally to those in need. All while a war of words over opiates carries over into the general assembles, who are led to believe that opiates are the scourge of the damned. Numbers mean nothing, while it is said there are somewhere near 15,000 deaths from opioids each year, there is no numbers depicting how many of those deaths were caused by legal or illegal activities, nor is there any numbers separating those who may have committed suicide and intentionally overdosed, and those that accidentally overdosed, Yet we know that doctors and medical facilities cause over 400,000 deaths a year, and there is no call for reform. Maybe it would be better to ban doctors, and let the people order their own medications.

  9. After my brother overdosed on fentanyl in July 2013, I searched his phone for his drug dealer’s contact information. It was Walgreens.

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