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When police did a sweep of three fire stations across Key West, a firefighter was arrested for possession of 0.02 grams of cocaine – or about 22 milligrams of coke, a few granules. A search of his phone revealed a history of texts to an unidentified drug dealer through whom he arranged to exchange money for cocaine. A search of the bedroom where he was staying revealed a duffle bag that contained supplies to fake a clean urine test: a bottle containing urine and heat wraps sold over the counter to treat back pain that would bring the bottle of urine to the right temperature for a test.
This firefighter and one other were fired after the investigation, but only the firefighter found with the cocaine granules and test faking supplies was arrested. Though possession of any amount of cocaine is considered a felony in Florida, it is unclear whether or not the former firefighter will be prosecuted.
State Attorney Dennis Ward had not seen the arrest reports and would not comment on the specifics of the case when interviewed, but he said that criminal charges would hinge on whether or not there was enough of the drug to be tested at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s drug lab.
Said Ward: “Depending on what happens at the lab, if there’s enough to go forward, we’ll go forward. If there’s not, obviously we can’t go forward.”
What do you think? If the amount seized in the drug bust does withstand testing at the lab, do you think felony charges are appropriate?
Due to its proximity to South and Central Americas, Florida is very often the point of entry for major drug traffickers entering the country. As a result, lawmakers have drawn a very heavy line in the sand when it comes to prosecuting those who are busted with any amount of what are considered to be “hard” drugs. Mere possession is no excuse in the eyes of the court, and they want to make it clear that there is a zero-tolerance policy for drug dealers.
However, those hardest hit by these laws are often people who are grappling with drug abuse or addiction issues. Going to prison for a felony charge that carries a minimum sentence of multiple years in prison for using and abusing drugs seems like it will do little to help someone who has already lost their job and needs help to get back on solid ground. Laws like these are a holdover from the War on Drugs years that have been proven time and again to only exacerbate the problem of addiction rather than to limit the problems associated with addiction in Florida.
With Jeff Sessions urging Florida prosecutors to seek the death penalty wherever possible in drug trafficking cases, the current political climate does not seem to be very lenient when it comes to addressing drug-related charges. However, political winds continually shift, and with the burden of an overpopulated and underfunded prison system, legislators may be more swiftly moving toward changes that will lighten the load of prisons across the state. Money spent on housing prisoners would be far more effectively spent on connecting those same people with addiction treatment services that will help them to free themselves from the harm caused by chronic drug use. With the right intervention and support as well as the incentive of staying out of prison, arrest for possession could be a positive and life-changing event rather than the leveling blow to the individual and their families that it currently is.
If someone you love is putting their life, their job, and their freedom at risk with continued use of substances, the time is now to help them get treatment that will help them to heal. Comprehensive care that includes medical detox as well as exposure to a variety of different types of therapies and holistic treatment is recommended, especially when it is followed by long-term aftercare and support transitioning into sobriety in the community.
Are you ready to help your family member take a step closer to treatment that can change their life?