Legalizing fentanyl test strips proposed
February 16, 2023
Allisone McClanahan suffered from severe chronic pain and fibromyalgia. To ease her pain, the 26-year-old took a pain pill from a friend she thought contained oxycodone. Instead, she died of a drug overdose in 2021.
After her death, the toxicology report revealed the pill did not contain any oxycodone and was poisoned with fentanyl, seven times the amount her body could withstand.
Genevieve Schofield, Allisone’s mother, said she did not want anyone to experience pain like hers.
She reached out to legislators, and testified at hearings, urging lawmakers to make fentanyl test strips more accessible after learning how easy and cost-efficient it was to check for fentanyl poisoning.
“Not knowing where to start, I emailed every legislator I could find an email address for,” Schofield said. “By the grace of God, Tina (Orwall) responded.”
Now, there’s a bill called “Allisone’s Law” to make fentanyl test strips (FTS) more accessible, and it has already passed through the House of Representatives 96-0.
House Bill 1006, sponsored by Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Kent, removes FTS strips that test the purity of controlled substances from the definition of unlawful drug paraphernalia, which allows broader access.
The strips are 96% accurate in detecting the presence of fentanyl, according to the Legislative Analysis and Public Policy Association. Within minutes, a person can know whether the drug contains fentanyl.
Until now, however, by law, drug paraphernalia includes testing equipment used to identify fentanyl and to analyze the purity of controlled substances. By owning or selling one of these kits, violators can face up to 120 days in jail and only public health programs and pharmacies in Washington can sell or distribute the strips.
“I think as we make this [fentanyl testing] more available in the community, I also hope that there are more opportunities to support people that are struggling so that they get the care and treatment that they need,” Orwall said.
A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Ron Muzzall, R-Oak Harbor. It will also allow access to the test strips.
“This isn’t the answer to all of our drug problems, this is just one small step toward addressing what we have as a pandemic of drug overdose deaths,” Muzzall said.
“If we could just save one life with these test strips, that’s what we have to focus on.”
Overdose deaths increased by 37% in Washington in 2020.
The most significant contributor to the dramatic increase in overdoses is due to fentanyl and fentanyl-related drugs that are illicitly manufactured, according to Jason Williams, Ph.D., a research scientist for the Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute at the University of Washington.
Brad Finegood testified in favor of both bills, SB 5022 and HB 1006, on behalf of Public Health-Seattle & King County. He currently works as a public health strategic advisor.
Finegood claims many parents reached out to Public Health-Seattle & King County asking where they could get fentanyl test strips, but due to their illegality, those kits are widely inaccessible.
“People are using substances thinking they’re relatively safe and are dying of a synthetic opioid overdose. People continue to die using fentanyl and have no intention to use fentanyl, and they have no idea what is in their drugs,” Finegood said.
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