Drug Trafficking Laws Don’t Favor the Poor and Uninsured

Many people in Florida and throughout the country face serious challenges in getting basic health care. They do not have access to doctors and other medical providers nor do they have the ability to obtain prescriptions for necessary painkillers and other drugs used to treat their various medical conditions. These people are often forced to obtain medicine, which includes prescription drugs and controlled substances, in less traditional ways. The Florida legislature has addressed this issue by making crimes and penalties for the illegal possession of prescription drugs more extremely severe.

For instance, most people think of drug traffickers as people involved in moving large amounts of illegal drugs through the state. However, in order to qualify for drug trafficking of illegal pills such as Hydrocodone, Xanax, Percocet, Vicodin, Oxycontin and others, a person only needs to have four or more grams of illegal pills in his/her possession. Four grams are far from a large amount and what a normal person would expect to be a trafficking amount. In fact, for people who are prescribed painkillers by a doctor, four grams are within a normal daily prescription amount, although at the very high end for one day. So, contrary to what people might believe about the crime of drug trafficking, being in possession of a daily dose of illegal pills (i.e. without a prescription) may subject someone to a charge of drug trafficking. By contrast, a person must possess more than 25 pounds of marijuana to reach the first level of trafficking marijuana.

Despite the very low threshold for the crime of drug trafficking of various pills in Florida, the penalties are still very severe. There are different levels of drug trafficking in Florida. At the lowest level is someone in possession of 4 or more grams but fewer than 14 grams of pills. That person faces a minimum mandatory sentence of three years in prison and a potential maximum sentence of thirty years in prison. In other words, if a person has a daily dosage of Vicodin or other prescription drug without the prescription, he/she faces at least three years in prison if charged and prosecuted for trafficking. If a person has 14 or more grams of a controlled substance in his/her possession but less than 28 grams, which is still not a extremely large amount and reasonable for someone who has a condition that causes him/her severe pain, the minimum mandatory penalty is 15 years in prison.

Considering the disastrous state of health care in this country, there are many people out there who need painkillers and other prescription drugs such as Percocet, Vicodin, Hydrocodone and others to manage their pain and other medical conditions but do not have traditional access to them. As a result, their medical conditions and less fortunate financial and insurance status may leave them no choice but to treat their pain by obtaining needed drugs in other ways. However, the criminal laws in Florida do not make any concessions for these folks who do not have insurance and cannot afford proper medical treatment but feel the need to relieve their pain just as the more fortunate members of society do. For those more fortunate members of society, they have insurance cards and access to medical providers and prescriptions for pain relieving medicine and they are well on their way to treatment, or at least pain management. For those less fortunate with similar or worse conditions, they have no access to doctors or prescriptions, must find some other way to get treatment and pain relief and may be on their way to a drug trafficking conviction and a mandatory long prison sentence.

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