LAKELAND, Fla. — Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law HB 95 which enhances penalties for the sale and distribution of opioids in Florida including fentanyl.
Governor DeSantis signed the bill in Lakeland next to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd and Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma.
HB 95 implements recommendations of the Statewide Task Force on Opioid Abuse. Governor DeSantis created the task force in 2019 to develop a statewide strategy to combat the opioid epidemic through education, treatment, prevention, recovery and law enforcement.
"Drug dealers are increasingly lacing other drugs with fentanyl and we've seen it in a wide variety of substances," DeSantis said.
The legislation adds methamphetamine to the list of specified controlled substances and if that substance causes the death of a person, prosecutors may pursue a first degree felony murder charge.
The legislation also enhances the penalties for the sale of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of substance abuse treatment facilities.
"If you're dealing fentanyl, you are killing people and you are going to be put in jail," the governor said.
The legislation also increased the mandatory minimum sentence for trafficking fentanyl from 3 years to 7 years for 4-14 grams, and from 15 to 20 years for 14-28 grams.
Mike Itani from Jacksonville also spoke at Thursday's press conference. He said his 23-year-old son was a child who loved sports. His son died of a fentanyl overdose in July of 2018.
"I refuse to call this an overdose because I truly believe that if you're intentionally giving somebody something that you know it's going to kill them, I'm going to call it a murder from now on because that's exactly what it is...it's a murder," Itani said.
Polk County Fire Rescue Paramedic Tom Konze also spoke at the press conference. He shared his experience responding to daily calls about overdoses, but he described one call that was different. He said a child had discovered his father. First responders administered Narcan.
"That patient's son was the one that found him in that state and ran to his grandmother to get help," Konze said. "This young child was under the age of 10 and witnessed this whole thing. You see ladies and gentlemen when we think of fentyl, we think of the addicts, we think of the dealers, but what we forget sometimes are the other victims in this crisis, the families especially the children."
The law takes effect October 1, 2022.