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Bills Would Revise Minimum Mandatory Sentences for Small Amounts of Painkillers

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Bipartisan bills moving through the Florida Legislature would revise minimum mandatory drug sentences for people carrying small amounts of oxycodone and hydrocodone. The prescription narcotics are prescribed by doctors to treat pain, but they are also among the most-abused prescription drugs in the state.

Current minimum mandatory sentencing laws often end up putting first-time, nonviolent offenders in prison for three years. The House bill would change the possession requirements for prison time from four to fourteen grams, or about 30 pills instead of seven.

Bill sponsor Katie Edwards says small-time addicts have substance abuse problems and shouldn't be treated like drug traffickers.
"How we are going to stop the individuals who continue to push those pills to the true addicts and how we are going to fund the diversion programs and more use of the pill mill database, I think we are all moving in the right direction", Edwards said.

A similar measure died on the House floor last session. If it passed this year, the bill could save the state some cash. It costs about $17,000 a year to house an inmate in state prison, and nearly 17% of all inmates are there on drug-related charges.