Editorial: Fentanyl strips shouldn’t be illegal
Driving recklessly is illegal. So is speeding. So is driving without a license or insurance.
A Pennsylvania driver can understand getting cited for those infractions. But could you imagine if the cop, at the same time, gave you a ticket for wearing your seat belt?
That might seem like what the state is doing with fentanyl strips.
Fentanyl strips are a way to identify whether the synthetic opioid is present in something. Fentanyl is a cheap way to boost the potency of more expensive drugs, making it a popular moneymaker for drug dealers looking to stretch things like heroin.
It’s good for the dealer and bad for the user. A little fentanyl can be the difference between life and death. That means not knowing if there is fentanyl in your drugs can turn the pain of addiction into the tragic heartbreak of overdose.
And in Pennsylvania, possessing the fentanyl strips — little slips of plastic that look like a dollar-store pregnancy test — is against the law.
The strips are considered drug paraphernalia. That makes having one as illegal as a needle or a crack pipe or a marijuana baggie. And that is ridiculous.
A fentanyl test strip may be drug-connected, but it does not help an addict get high. It helps an addict maybe not die. It isn’t like the seat belt in that recklessly driven, uninsured car. It is like a bulletproof vest worn to a meeting where someone might pull a gun.
On Wednesday, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale called for the strips to be legalized as another way to combat the opioid epidemic.
“Beyond the tragic cost in lives lost to overdoses, the fentanyl epidemic is driving billions of dollars in costs to Pennsylvania taxpayers and our economy,” he said, urging lawmakers to pass pending legislation that would legalize the strips.
There is no reason to keep the strips banned. They do not encourage drug use, nor make it more likely that people will fall victim to addiction. The only thing they do is give some hope that maybe, just maybe, an addict will test the drugs, recognize the danger and be safe.
That is the same goal of every public service announcement and “This is your brain on drugs” commercial. It is why we have warnings and education, and yes, it is why we have seat belts in cars.
Because maybe they will work.