On Wednesday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation targeting the reduction of synthetic opioid drug abuse by way of enhanced penalties for the abuse of fentanyl and its many derivatives.
On May 3, following an announcement by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Gov. Scott signed Executive Order 17-146, which allows the state to begin tapping into the $27 million in grant funding it was awarded from United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of the Opioid State Targeted Response Grant.
The governor’s signature on House Bill 477 comes at a time when the opioid epidemic is known to kill thousands of Floridians annually.
Per a 2015 Florida Department of Law Enforcement report, “The drugs that caused the most deaths were benzodiazepines (1,140, including 588 alprazolam deaths and 163 diazepam deaths), cocaine (967), morphine (895), ethyl alcohol (810), heroin (733), fentanyl (705), oxycodone (565), methadone (290), and hydrocodone (236). Heroin (94.1 percent), fentanyl (77.4 percent), methadone (64.0 percent), morphine (60.4 percent), cocaine (52.7 percent), and oxycodone (52.3 percent) were listed as causing death in more than 50 percent of the deaths in which these drugs were found.”
Gov. Scott’s signature on HB 477 will fast-track two critical assets in the war against pharmaceutical addiction and ultimately overdoses through quicker access to funding and superior access to critical overdose medicine.
Per the press release from the Governor’s office, “This legislation provides tools for law enforcement and first responders to save lives.” According to Gov. Scott’s Executive Order, approximately 3,900 opioid-related deaths occurred in Florida during 2015.
Receiving broad support on his legislative effort to combat opioid abuse in the Sunshine State, Governor Scott said, “I’m proud to sign this important piece of legislation today to help fight this national epidemic which has taken the lives of too many Floridians. This legislation provides tools for law enforcement and first responders to save lives. We are committed to helping our communities fight opioid abuse and that’s why I declared a Public Health Emergency to ensure that our first responders have immediate access to lifesaving drugs to respond to overdoses. I’d like to thank Attorney General Pam Bondi, Senator Greg Steube and Representative Jim Boyd for their hard work on this legislation and dedication to the health and safety of our families. I look forward to visiting communities across the state to discuss how we can continue to combat this issue.”
Expected to expedite the distribution of critical funding and life-saving antidotes, there’s one thing the next governor of Florida should consider. Per a May 2017 National Institute on Drug Abuse study, those states that have enacted whole plant medical marijuana laws (read: able to smoke), have routinely witnessed a double-digit drop in their opioid-related deaths.