Florida Gov. DeSantis signs bill increasing punishments for fentanyl trafficking as opioid crisis worsens

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Thursday cracking down on drug trafficking, increasing the mandatory minimum sentence for those convicted of dealing fentanyl and making the sale of methamphetamine resulting in death a capital felony punishable by life in prison or execution. 

“We can and must lower the demand for drugs through education and outreach programs, but we also must fight the supply of drugs and crack down on dealers and traffickers, particularly of substances like fentanyl,” DeSantis said at a press conference Thursday alongside Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd and Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma. 

Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, speaks during a news conference at a in Pembroke Pines, Florida.
(Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The mandatory minium sentence for selling 4-14 grams of fentanyl is increased to 7 years, while the mandatory minimum for selling 14-28 grams is bumped up to 20 years under the bill, HB 95. 

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DeSantis cited the fentanyl overdoses of several U.S. Military Academy cadets in Miami earlier this year while they were on spring break after they consumed what authorities believe is fentanyl-laced cocaine. 

“We’re going to do all we can to decrease the prevalence of fentanyl in Florida, and that means if you’re dealing fentanyl, you are killing people you’re going to be put in jail,” DeSantis said. 

Distributing methamphetamine that results in a fatal overdose will also be a felony murder under the new bill. 

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More than 107,000 people died from drug overdoses nationwide last year, about 71,000 of which were caused by fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. 

A reporter holds up an example of the amount of fentanyl that can be deadly after a news conference about deaths from fentanyl exposure, at DEA Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. 

A reporter holds up an example of the amount of fentanyl that can be deadly after a news conference about deaths from fentanyl exposure, at DEA Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. 
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

DeSantis blamed the increased flow of fentanyl and other drugs coming across the southern border for the rise in overdose deaths. 

“If you look at what’s going on at the southern border right now. I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like this, with the massive numbers of people that are coming across the border illegally,” DeSantis said. “It’s fueling a massive infusion of fentanyl into this country.”

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Customs and Border Protection seized about 10,600 pounds of fentanyl at the southern border in fiscal year 2021, an increase of 130% over 2020, according to CBP data. 

The number of migrants coming across the southern border has also surged recently. Nearly 235,000 migrants were encountered by border agents at the southern border in April, the highest number the Department of Homeland Security has ever recorded. 

Immigrant men from many countries are taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol agents at the U.S.-Mexico border on December 07, 2021 in Yuma, Arizona. 

Immigrant men from many countries are taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol agents at the U.S.-Mexico border on December 07, 2021 in Yuma, Arizona. 
(John Moore/Getty Images)

DeSantis has taken aim at Biden over the surge in border crossings, accusing the president this week of “violating his oath of office” by not cracking down on the surge. 

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“Those border communities are just getting killed down in southern Texas with everything coming in, DeSantis said at a press conference Wednesday. 

“Biden should be given an honorary membership in the Mexican drug cartels because nobody has done more to help the cartels than Biden with his open border policies.”


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