DeSantis Signs New Laws to Fight Fentanyl Epidemic, Punish Dealers

Governor Ron DeSantis signed two bills on Monday to tackle the opioid crisis in Florida. At a press conference, DeSantis slammed the Biden administration for their failure to secure the southern border, leading to a rise in fentanyl trafficking. The new measures signed by the Governor include heightened criminal penalties for exposing first responders to fentanyl and a designated day of awareness to warn of the dangers of opioid overdose.

“Because of the Biden administration’s unwillingness to secure the southern border, law enforcement officers are encountering fentanyl at alarming rates,” DeSantis told reporters on Monday. “I’m signing legislation today to keep officers safe on the job and to further combat the opioid epidemic.” DeSantis signed Senate Bill 718 and Senate Bill 66 during a ceremony at the Seminole County SSheriff’sOffice in Sanford.

SB 718 makes it easier to prosecute fentanyl traffickers who put first responders in harm’s way by exposing them to the deadly drug. Under the new law, offenders who cause an overdose or serious bodily harm to a first responder can now be prosecuted for a second-degree felony. The law also expands protections for individuals who seek medical advice on behalf of someone they believe is experiencing an overdose.

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“This bill, [SB 718], provides that any adult who, through unlawful possession of dangerous fentanyl or analogs, exposes any first responder to that fentanyl that results in overdose or serious bodily injury – that we’re going to prosecute you as a second-degree felon for doing that,” DeSantis said Monday.

“So if an officer says, ‘Do you have drugs in your possession?’ and you lie and then the officer ends up getting exposed and harmed, we’re going to throw the book at you and we’re going to hold you accountable,” the Governor added. “We want to make sure that the people who wear the uniform are protected.”

Senate Bill 66 will also establish June 6 as a statewide day of awareness for the dangers of opioid overdose. Under the direction of the Florida Health Department, the ”Revive Awareness Day”will also educate residents on life-saving products like naloxone to counteract overdoses. The legislation, known as “Victoria’sLaw,” is named for Victoria Siegel, an 18-year-old who died of an accidental overdose in 2015.

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The new measures build on existing efforts in Florida to combat the fentanyl epidemic, such as the Coordinated Opioid Response (CORE) network, which was recently expanded to offer 24-hour coverage in 17 counties. According to a February report from state Attorney General Ashley Moody, overdose rates have begun to slowly decline, with a 9 percent decrease reported from September 2022 to September 2023.

“When you’re putting fentanyl in our communities, you are killing people, “DeSantis said Monday. “and you need to be treated like the murderer that you are.”

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