In Florida, drug trafficking involves knowingly selling, purchasing, manufacturing, delivering, bringing into the state, or possessing a controlled substance. And, yes, when such is done with fentanyl, it is illegal.
Drug trafficking is considered a more severe offense than simple sales, delivery, or possession. It carries harsher penalties, including mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment and tens of thousands of dollars in fines.
What elevates these crimes to drug trafficking is the amount of the substance. Although some might believe that trafficking in fentanyl involves bags and bags of the drug, in reality, even a small quantity of it can result in a higher-level charge.
Is Fentanyl Illegal in Florida?
Technically, fentanyl developed by an authorized manufacturer is not illegal. What is unlawful is making, distributing, or possessing the substance when not licensed or legally allowed to do so.
Florida classifies fentanyl as a Schedule II controlled substance. This classification means that, while fentanyl has a high potential for abuse and can lead to severe psychological or physical dependence, it also has an accepted medical use. Thus, authorized individuals can distribute the drug, and those with valid prescriptions can possess or use it.
That said, some types of fentanyl distributed on the streets are illegally made. These strains are unlawful in Florida.
What Is Trafficking in Fentanyl?
Florida Statutes § 893.135 (4)(a) concerns trafficking in fentanyl. As noted above, it does not take much for a person to be facing a serious trafficking charge. According to the law, a person traffics in fentanyl when they knowingly sell, deliver, purchase, manufacture, bring into the state, or possess more than 4 grams of it.
The offense is a first-degree felony, usually penalized by up to 30 years of imprisonment and/or up to $10,000 in fines. However, in trafficking cases, a judge must set a mandatory minimum incarceration term and impose a hefty fine.
The length of imprisonment and amount of the fine depend on the quantity of the drug:
- Trafficking 4 or more but less than 14 grams of fentanyl results in:
- A 3-year mandatory minimum term of imprisonment and
- A $50,000 fine
- Trafficking 14 grams or more but less than 28 grams of fentanyl results in:
- A 15-year mandatory minimum term of imprisonment and
- A $100,000 fine
- Trafficking 28 grams or more of fentanyl results in:
- A 25-year mandatory minimum term of imprisonment and
- A $500,000 fine
We mentioned earlier that trafficking in fentanyl is a more serious offense than some lower-level drug crimes. For comparison's sake, selling, delivering, or manufacturing less than 4 grams is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years of imprisonment and/or up to $10,000 in fines. While these penalties are still severe, they are not as harsh as those imposed for trafficking.
What Is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. Like morphine, it is used to treat patients with severe or chronic pain, but, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is 50 to 100 times more potent.
Effects of fentanyl include:
- Pain relief,
Because fentanyl can lead to addiction and abuse, distribution of it is highly restricted, and it can only be legally obtained with a valid prescription. Taking more than prescribed can lead to overdose.
According to the CDC, in the 12-month period ending in May of 2020, opioid-related deaths increased by just over 38%. Those associated with fentanyl were linked to illicit fentanyl – that which is illegally made.
Illicit fentanyl is sold in various forms, including:
- Sprays, and
It is often mixed with other drugs, such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and ecstasy. The user may not know that they have taken a substance laced with fentanyl, which can be hazardous to their health and safety.