Several MS lawmakers push to decriminalize test strips that detect fentanyl

Published: Oct. 13, 2022 at 6:33 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Several state lawmakers are pushing to decriminalize fentanyl test strips.

It’s a tool used to detect the synthetic opioid, but it’s also a tool that’s currently illegal in Mississippi.

“The fact that they are continued to be seen as drug paraphernalia is the criminal part of it, not to be found with fentanyl test strips,” Katherine Pannel said.

Pannel is the daughter of a recovering addict and the daughter-in-law of someone who died from substance abuse.

Currently a medical director in Oxford, Pannel said she’s now seeing even more overdose deaths among college students.

She said access to fentanyl test strips could help turn that around.

“What we’re seeing is this is actually the young population, young adults, 18-to-45, that this may be their actual first time using any substance, and they don’t know that the pill is laced,” Pannel said. “Then, they’re dying from their first use of a substance.”

Rep. Christopher Bell introduced a bill last session to decriminalize these test strips, but it never made it out of committee.

“It was disappointing to see that we had an opportunity to save additional lives this year, and now, we have to wait until this coming session to see how it goes,” Bell said.

Rep. Lee Yancey, the drug policy chairperson, said that’s because he didn’t know much about the test strips and also had his hands full with medical marijuana legislation.

Now that that’s changed...

“I’m not opposed to Representative Bell filing that same bill again and bringing out representative Bell’s bill,” Yancey said.

While we couldn’t find any legislators opposed to this bill, Pannel said the opposition tends to argue that the testing strips enable substance abusers.

“Okay, fine. Fentanyl test strips are enabling substance abusers, but they’re enabling them one more day to get into recovery and one more chance of recovery because everyone has an opportunity to recover,” she said. “Everyone can recover.”

Pannel wants these testing strips to be distributed at places that can show people how to use them and also connect users with recovery resources.

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