Bill Revising Penalties For Certain Drug Offenses Has Some Saying It's Too Lenient

Feb 5, 2014

A bipartisan bill that revises the penalties for trafficking certain prescription drugs cleared its first House committee Wednesday. But, some say the measure is too lenient.

Last year, Plantation Democratic Representative Katie Edwards filed a similar measure that gave judges the flexibility to sentence a person below the mandatory minimum sentence for trafficking prescription drugs—oxycodone and hydrocodone in particular. She claimed it differentiated addicts from actual traffickers, but the bill died on the House floor. Edwards says this year’s measure is exactly the same, except it no longer contains the judicial discretion provision.

“What we’re doing is looking at raising those thresholds to what’s actually taking place on the frontlines with law enforcement and being able to sentence these individuals based on basic pill amounts. So, for example, we would not be looking at sentencing an individual to three years in state prison for the possession of seven hydrocodone pills. That amount would now, I believe, be raised to 30 pills,” said Edwards.

But, Keystone Heights Republican Representative Charles Van Zant, who co-sponsored last year’s bill, says this new measure goes against everything he believes in, and will do nothing to stop the drug trafficking that occurs on the street.

“I voted for the Representative’s bill last year because I believed that did something, but I am not in favor of raising the bar from 4 grams to 14 grams. I think that is really overreaching the top and I’m not just prepared to be that liberal in the street trafficking of drugs, whether they’re prescription, cocaine, hashish, whatever,” added Van Zant.

The bill passed the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee with Van Zant as the lone dissenting vote. There’s a similar measure moving through the Senate authored by Fleming Island Republican Senator Rob Bradley.

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