Gov. Rick Scott hosts signing ceremony for new mandatory minimum opioid law

Republican Gov. Rick Scott hosted a ceremonial bill signing in West Palm Beach on Tuesday for a new law establishing mandatory minimums for synthetic opioid possession in Florida, reports WPTV.

The new law, which Mr. Scott officially signed on June 14 among 27 other pieces of legislation, is meant to discourage the trafficking and distribution of the synthetic opioid fentanyl and its derivatives. The law will take effect in October, mandating judges to sentence individuals possessing 4 grams of fentanyl to three years in prison. The mandatory minimum sentence increases to 15 years in prison for 14 grams and 25 years in prison for 28 grams, according to a report from the Miami Herald.

Fentanyl was associated with nearly 900 overdose deaths in 2016, according to WPTV.

"Right now, we are still figuring out the right thing to do," said Gov. Scott at Tuesday's ceremony with several Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office deputies behind him, according to WPTV. "I can tell you everybody standing up here, they're focused on how we can make this better. And I hope while I'm governor, we're able to find the answer to this. I know this community has just been devastated by it."

The legislation has been met with some opposition in the state as critics argue mandatory minimums might result in draconian punishments for individuals with opioid use disorders and that judges should be allowed more discretion during sentencing.  

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said the bill's language could result in people incurring a 25-year prison sentence for unwittingly possessing more of the drug than they realize, according to the Herald.

"Addicts have no idea what they are buying," said Mr. Brandes.

More articles on opioids: 
How hospitals can fight the opioid epidemic and more: 5 Qs with former White House 'drug czar' Michael Botticelli 
Study: 9 in 10 handwritten opioid prescriptions contain errors 
FDA chief proposes new rules for providers, pharma to curb opioid addiction: 5 things to know

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