The Alabama Senate passed a bill that would legalize strips for testing fentanyl.

Senate Bill 168, sponsored by Jim McClendon (R-Springville), who chairs the Senate Health Committee, would legalize the sale and use of strips that could test for the opiate fentanyl.

“The greatest cause of fatal drug overdoses is fentanyl, and in most of those cases, drug user does not realize that they have purchased a drug laced with fentanyl," said McClendon. "It’s not just cocaine, meth, and heroin users, ADHD pills used by college students to stay up and study for a test. They’re laced with fentanyl as well.”

Under current law, the test strips are considered to be drug paraphernalia, which McClendon believes does more harm than good. Rather, McClendon thinks that the test strips would decrease the likelihood of accidental drug overdoses for people who may inadvertently ingest a substance laced with fentanyl. 

Sen. Larry Stutts (R-Sheffield) spoke in opposition to the bill, stating that he has foundational objections to increasing the safety of taking illegal drugs.

"I have a fundamental problem with trying to make an illegal activity safer,” Stutts said. “It’s the equivalent of giving bulletproof vests to bank robbers. These things are illegal.”

Sen. April Weaver (R – Alabaster) also opposed the bill, agreeing with Stutts. Weaver believes that, rather than helping, it will allow drug dealers to flaunt their product as containing fentanyl for those who truly desire to use the drug.

“In my role at the federal government at HHS, I did a lot of work in dealing with the people who are dealing with addiction,” Weaver said. “I get what you are trying to do. But I do think there is a very slippery slope here because if you have a drug dealer who is dealing with someone who has a really, really bad addiction, I think they can also use these strips to show them ‘ hey, here’s the stuff that has the fentanyl, you’re really addicted, you want this super high, here’s the stuff that has the fentanyl.’”

The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 19 to 5 and will move on to the House of Representatives.

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