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Florida Governor Scott Signs Tough Fentanyl Law In West Palm Beach

Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks about the dangers of the synthetic opioid fentanyl in West Palm Beach on July 11, 2017.
Peter Haden
Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks about the dangers of the synthetic opioid fentanyl in West Palm Beach on July 11, 2017.

Florida is enacting tough new penalties on dealers of the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Gov. Rick Scott was in West Palm Beach Tuesday for a ceremonial signing of Florida House Bill 477.

"It’s going to allow our law enforcement officers to go after these traffickers,” Scott said. “You just can’t imagine that somebody would want to make somebody addicted to something that ultimately could take their life.”

Read more: Sunny Daze, Inside South Florida's Opioid Crisis

Credit Peter Haden / WLRN

Beginning Oct. 1, judges will be bound to give mandatory minimum sentences to people caught with fentanyl and carfentanil. Those with four grams will receive a minimum of three years in prison, 14 grams will draw 15 years, and 28 grams -- 25 years.

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg says the minimums are appropriate.

“You have to have four grams -- which could kill anywhere between 1,000 and 2,000 people,” said Aronberg. “We’re not talking about small possessors here. We’re talking about people with enough fentanyl to commit mass murder."

The bill also allows prosecutors to charge fentanyl dealers with homicide if they sell a fatal dose of the drug.

Peggy Hernandez’s lost her son, Ty, to a fentanyl overdose.

“Let’s try to get this drug off the streets,” said Hernandez. “It is a poison and it’s going to kill you if you do it.”

According to the Florida Medical Examiners Commission, synthetic opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil killed more than 850 people in the first half of 2016 -- more than any other drug.

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Peter Haden is an award-winning investigative reporter and photographer currently working with The Center for Investigative Reporting. His stories are featured in media outlets around the world including NPR, CNN en Español, ECTV Ukraine, USA Today, Qatar Gulf Times, and the Malaysia Star.
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