Painkiller addiction is a huge problem across America, and Florida is home to a large percentage of those addicted. Back in 2011, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi described the state as the epicenter of prescription drug abuse. Doctors routinely prescribe more medication than patients actually need to treat their conditions. When the patient starts to feel better they often stop taking the medication. However, instead of disposing of extra medication safely, patients keep the unused pills and self-medicate from their old stock when they start to feel ill again. This behavior often leads to a cycle of drug dependency and in turn to illegal sharing and trafficking of prescription drugs. The Florida legislature imposes strict mandatory sentences on illegal trafficking.
Anyone caught illegally possessing four grams of more of a controlled substance is to be sentenced to three years in custody and a $50,000 fine. The penalties for illegal possession increase with the amount of drugs illegally in one's possession. The law covers anyone caught with morphine, opium, oxycodone, hydrocodone and hydromorphone, all of which are commonly used in prescribed painkillers and many of which are known to have addictive qualities. In particular oxycodone and hydrocodone are components of many well known drugs such as Tylenol, Percocet, Tylox and Roxilox.
The sad reality is that our current laws are ensnaring users and addicts and treating them as “traffickers”. Four grams of hydrocodone is less than 10 pills. Addicts take more than 10 pills per day. Simple possession of this small amount of pills subjects one a trafficking charge and mandatory minimum prison sentences. It is absurd and unfair.
Proposed changes to legal limits fails
A recent bill in the Florida senate proposed increasing the legal threshold so that only those people illegally possessing 14 grams or more of oxycodone or hydrocodone would receive a mandatory sentence. Supporters of the bill suggested that raising the threshold of illegality would spare the overcrowded Florida court system and save the prison service tens of millions of dollars by eliminating the need for thousands of prison spaces. However, the bill failed to garner sufficient support and died in the Senate reading in May this year. For the time being, the threshold remains.
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