Florida to penalize those who expose law enforcement officers to fentanyl

(The Center Square) — Penalties for those who expose law enforcement officers to fentanyl are set to increase in the Sunshine State after new legislation was signed Monday.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate bills 718 and 66. The first creates a second-degree felony for any adult individual who recklessly exposes first responders to fentanyl that results in an overdose or serious bodily harm.

SB 718 also expands protections for individuals against prosecution if they seek help for themselves or someone else if they believe an overdose is happening. SB 66 designates June 6th as Revive Awareness Day, while directing the Florida Department of Health to raise awareness of the dangers of exposure to opioids.

DeSantis said during a news conference in Sanford on Monday that there is a huge amount of fentanyl pouring over the southern border from Mexico. He also added that this has had a huge impact on communities throughout the U.S.

“It’s not just a southern border problem, this fentanyl ends up in communities from coast to coast,” DeSantis said. “We have been setting records as a country for the amount of opioid overdose deaths, driven by fentanyl coming across the southern border.”

DeSantis noted that the state of Florida has done what it could to help with the southern border, including sending state troopers, other law enforcement and the State Guard to Texas to help stem the flow of undocumented migrants.

“We’re happy to do that because I think it’s an American problem, not just a Texas problem, and the Federal government is really just not doing the job that it needs to do and has really helped facilitate the mess that we’re in,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis stated that fentanyl is often laced into other recreational drugs, which is causing more people to overdose, essentially poisoning them.

“Maybe someone buys the pill thinking it is something else, it’s laced with fentanyl, then all of a sudden that one pill could be enough to kill somebody,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis also noted that the Biden administration is responsible for this crisis and that the new legislation will help curb some of that by keeping first responders safer in their jobs.

“Because of the Biden administration’s unwillingness to secure the southern border, law enforcement officers are encountering fentanyl at alarming rates. I’m signing legislation today to keep officers safe on the job, and to further combat the opioid epidemic.” DeSantis said.

DeSantis also expanded the state’s Coordinated Opioid Response network from 12 counties to 29.

“Opioid addiction has been a scourge in the lives of too many Floridians and too many Americans around the country,” said State Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo. “Thanks to Governor DeSantis and the support of our legislators, we are continuing to take steps to address this human tragedy. CORE’s expansion will support and treat more Floridians and serve as a model for states around the country.”