A new bill signed into law last month by Governor Ducey legalized the use of testing strips to detect the presence of fentanyl in controlled substances. In the wake of skyrocketing drug deaths due to opiate overdoses, the new law will allow the purchase of the strips by anyone in Arizona (including those who use illegal drugs and their families) to learn whether a substance contains fentanyl. For those who don’t know, fentanyl is an opiate that is estimated to be as much as 100 times stronger than morphine and about 50 times stronger than heroin. In many cases, fentanyl is added to street drugs to increase their effect – unfortunately, the added opiate has also contributed to the high number of overdoses and overdose deaths.
The first question many people ask when they are told about the issue is why a law is necessary to allow testing for a narcotic. The answer is in A.R.S. 13-3415F(2), which defines “drug paraphernalia.” Until the effective date of the new law, which will be 90 days after the end of the current legislative session, a fentanyl testing strip is considered illegal “drug paraphernalia” under the statute, which includes, in its definition, anything used for “testing” an illegal drug. The amended law states specifically that the testing prohibition will not apply to any product for testing narcotics or other controlled substances to determine if a controlled substance contains either fentanyl or a fentanyl analog (a drug designed to mimic fentanyl effects).
We should also note that other procedures designed to deal with the opioid crisis have been cleared for use by the public. One example is naloxone (usually called Narcan®), which is a medication used to help a person who is overdosing on opioids. Under a standing order by the Arizona Department of Health Services, pharmacists are allowed to dispense Narcan® to any individual in Arizona.
The effort to deal with the issue of opioid abuse through means other than incarceration is, we think, at least a step in the right direction.
Law Offices of David A. Black
40 North Central Avenue #1850
Phoenix, AZ 85004