Florida’s New Problem Fentanyl-Laced Marijuana
The fentanyl crisis has reached Florida. Sarah, our senior law clerk, tells us what we need to know about this deadly drug in our latest article. Learn more here.
What is Fentanyl?According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. It is a Schedule II prescription drug often used to treat patients with severe pain or manage the pain after surgery. In the past, fentanyl was commonly added to heroin or methamphetamine to increase its potency. This greatly increased the risk of overdose, especially since many people were unaware that the drugs they were taking were laced with fentanyl. Then, it was found in counterfeit pills, which appeared to be sedatives or painkillers but were actually fentanyl. Unfortunately, marijuana is now being laced with fentanyl, leading to significant overdoses in Florida and throughout the United States.
An Invisible KillerIn 2019, a high school girl took “two hits off a joint, [which] caus[ed] her chest and throat to start burning.” She ended up in the hospital where she was given a dose of naloxone to counter a fentanyl overdose. Just this past summer, the Bradford County Sheriff’s Office issued a warning, stating that marijuana laced with fentanyl that they intercepted posed a dangerous narcotic threat to the community.
Fentanyl is incredibly addictive and one of the most common drugs that can lead to overdose. It can even be fatal when microscopic amounts come in contact with skin. A police officer in Ohio unknowingly brushed fentanyl off his uniform after arresting two individuals. That alone caused the drug to enter his system through his hand. He collapsed and had to be given a dose of Narcan, an opioid antidote, to reverse the effects and save him from overdosing.
Signs & SymptomsBecause fentanyl-laced marijuana enters the brain at an alarmingly fast rate, it is imperative you know the signs of an overdose. Severe drowsiness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, clammy skin, slowed heartbeat, and seizures are all signs of a fentanyl overdose. In a study from 2014-2016, researchers interviewed more than 60 people with firsthand accounts of a fentanyl overdose. These individuals admitted to using the drug in the past year and either witnessed someone overdose or survived a fentanyl overdose themselves in the past six months. The rapid speed of onset symptoms was a common characteristic of a fentanyl overdose, “with 75% of respondents describing symptoms of an overdose occurring within seconds to minutes.” For this reason, it is vital to seek medical assistance immediately if you believe you or someone you know is experiencing a fentanyl overdose.
Can I Get in Legal Trouble if I Seek Medical Help?According to Section 893.21 of the Florida Statutes, any person acting in good faith who seeks medical assistance for an individual experiencing, or believed to be experiencing, an alcohol-related or drug-related overdose may not be arrested, charged, prosecuted, or penalized for violating Section 893.147 or Section 893.13 of the Florida Statutes if the evidence for such an offense was obtained as a result of the person’s seeking medical assistance. The same applies for a person who seeks medical assistance for themself in such a situation. However, it is important to know that protection from arrest, charge, prosecution, or penalization for an offense under this statute may not be grounds for suppression of evidence in other criminal prosecutions.
General Possession of Fentanyl in FloridaAlthough you will not face legal repercussions if you call for medical assistance during a potential overdose, you certainly will if you are caught generally in possession of fentanyl. Under the Criminal Punishment Code, Possession of Fentanyl is a Level 3 Offense. Under Section 893.03 of the Florida Statutes, fentanyl is a Schedule II controlled substance and being convicted of Possession of Fentanyl a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. In addition, under Section 322.055 of the Florida Statutes, any person convicted of the crime will have their driver’s license suspended by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
Fentanyl can invisibly lace any drug, even ones that are commonly thought to not be as serious such as marijuana. The public must be aware that this danger exists, as there is a significant risk in using any substance in any amount.
This article was written by Sarah Kamide.