Is it a southern border issue though?
On May 19 Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis signed new legislation intended to tackle the flow of illegal fentanyl across the U.S. southern border with Mexico.
HB95 - the controlled substances bill was approved during the state's legislative season and is intended to assist in preventing the flow of the opioid and synthetic variants of it, into the United States.
The new law redefines offences in relation to fentanyl trafficking and misuse, and introduces harsher sentences for offences committed in relation to what it renames "dangerous fentanyl".
Tackling the flow of synthetic fentanyl from Mexico
Synthetic forms of the drug which are those most commonly seized during their journey across the southern border with Mexico are often 100 times more potent than genuine fentanyl and other opioids.
The new legislation for Florida is seen as a means of offering more stringent protection against the drugs coming into the U.S. from Mexico, by enforcing harsher punishments for those found violating the law. The governor chose to focus on this aspect of the legislation as he tweeted his announcement of the new law.
Florida's fentanyl problem
Whether it's drugs flowing in from Mexico, or domestically within the U.S. it's undeniable that Florida has a fentanyl problem. Northwest Florida alone, saw a 354% increase in fentanyl deaths from 2020 to 2021, and such alarming statistics help to explain why the drug is so concerning.
Commenting on the need for this legislation, Governor DeSantis was clear about his motivations:
“You go to look at like certain street drugs that are considered, quote, not as lethal — if this fentanyl is in it, then all of a sudden, you’re looking at something that could take your life."
He continued, commenting particularly towards kids in the state:
"If you’re out there, as kids in particular, I would just say, the last thing you want to be doing is just ingesting or using any of these foreign substances. I’m not saying it was ever anything you wanted to do, but compared to where we were like in the ’60s to now, this stuff is really, really problematic.”
Is it about the southern border?
While there's an undeniable influx of drugs into the U.S. from Mexico, it's not entirely clear how this legislation will address that issue as much as the governor tweeted to that effect.
His comments seem once again to call upon the typical Republican narrative that the issue of fentanyl addiction and deaths in the U.S. is due to the drug crossing from Mexico which is the fault of the Biden administration. Republican governors around the U.S. responded to a cry for help from the governors of Texas and Arizona last year, sending law enforcement officers and National Guard troops to assist at the border - Florida was among them.
Whether this served any lasting purpose is unclear, but it seems that this new legislation is another, more focused way to deter the sale and use of illegal fentanyl in the state. Hopefully it will be effective.
Have you or those you know been affected by fentanyl misuse? Let me know in the comments section below.