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U.S. Reconsiders Current Drug Policy

The U.S. government is considering a policy change regarding its "war on drugs."

Whereas the focus of state and federal drug enforcement used to be cocaine trafficking, the rampant and widespread abuse of prescription drugs throughout the United States (and especially here in Florida) has prompted officials to rethink their current policy.

Prescription drugs, such as Xanax (alprazolam) and OxyContin (oxycodone) are two highly-addictive medications that are abused more frequently and with more lethal consequences than cocaine.

Xanax and OxyContin are not brought across our borders by dangerous cartels. Large corporations manufacture and sell them right here in the United States.

In Miami and Broward, many pain clinics distribute these medications with very little medical oversight. In other words, these "pill mills" enable addicts to walk through the front door and obtain prescription drugs with relative ease.

While drug addiction is a disease, our government's solution seems to be draconian mandatory minimum sentences for trafficking in these substances. Remember - trafficking in Florida is not based on whether or not you sell or intend to sell the drugs. Trafficking is based solely on weight. When you are addicted to pills and have a few prescription bottles in your possession, you could easily be charged with trafficking when you intended to use the pills yourself.

The question remains - now that pills are the most widely abused controlled substance, does the government invest in treatment or punishment.

It's always cheaper and more effective to treat addicts rather than warehouse them in jails and prisons.

Hopefully this policy shift leads to more drug courts, treatment programs, and abolition of mandatory prison time for addicts.

However, if you are charged with trafficking in any prescription medication in Miami-Dade County or Broward County, understand that both the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office and the Broward State Attorney's Office have specialized narcotics units. These specialized units focus on trafficking offenses and are required by both state law and office policy not to waive mandatory minimum sentences unless there is a reason for it.

Just because you are a first-time offender does not mean that the state won't seek mandatory prison time. Legal attacks on the evidence (suppression motions) or proof of a drug addiction (mitigation) are two possible ways to get a mandatory sentence waived. However, since the legislature has taken discretion away from the courts, only the prosecutor can waive a mandatory minimum sentence.

If you are charged with trafficking in Miami-Dade or Broward, understand that the charge is very serious. Do not hesitate to contact me to discuss your options.