Florida Senate unanimously passes bill decriminalizing fentanyl test strips

Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 7:23 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - A bill that would decriminalize test strips for fentanyl as part of the Florida’s ongoing effort to combat the opioid epidemic was unanimously approved in the state senate on Wednesday.

SB-164 would amend decades-old drug statutes in Florida law that criminalize possession of drug testing equipment. Currently under state law drug testing equipment, which includes fentanyl testing strips, are classified as “drug paraphernalia.”

Melanie Brown-Woofter, president and CEO of the Florida Behavioral Health Association, said the testing strips are a life-saving measure.

“It only takes five minutes to see if the substance that you are about to take, or have in front of you, contains fentanyl or not,” Brown-Woofter said. “Fentanyl test strips are a tool in our chest to use to combat the opioid epidemic.”

Fentanyl test strips (FTS) are small paper strips that can detect the presence of fentanyl in different kinds of drugs (cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, etc.) and drug forms (pills, powder, and injectables) and some advocates argue it can help reduce the risk of overdoses.

Susan Dodd’s daughter Bella died from an overdose of fentanyl-laced heroin in October of 2020. She said her daughter would have supported the legalization of these test strips.

“The only way aside from not taking any is to have Narcan available which reverses an opioid overdose and potentially test strips can stop someone from using drugs that are contaminated,” Dodd said.

A similar effort to decriminalize fentanyl test strips in Florida failed last year with some Republican lawmakers arguing the move would promote drug use.

A similar bill to legalize test strips remains in a House committee. The Florida Senate is also pushing a bill that would enhance criminal penalties for fentanyl distribution, possession and sale.