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Senator works to decriminalize Fentanyl test strips in Arkansas

As the dangers of Fentanyl continue to grow— one senator has been actively working to make sure that Arkansans aren't penalized for possessing Fentanyl test strips.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The dangers of Fentanyl have continued to trouble lawmakers, as well as addiction and recovery centers in Arkansas. 

Some experts want to give users Fentanyl test strips that can be used to detect when the dangerous opioid is mixed with other drugs.

"We focus on overdose prevention," said Amber Kincaid, with the Central Arkansas Harm Reduction Project. 

There are many different resources that the organization uses to try and cut back on drug use. Among those— are Fentanyl test strips.

"The Fentanyl test strip tells you there is [Fentanyl] in this [and] you need to take less than you usually would," Kincaid explained.

It's an item widely used among people.

"People who are sober and maybe have peers who are still using substances and they want their friends. Sometimes, we have parents who are aware of their children's use and want to have it for their kids," Kincaid said.

However, according to Arkansas law, possession of the test strips is considered a felony and they are also considered drug paraphernalia.

"Fentanyl is a dangerous drug. It can cause overdoses, so why would we penalize Arkansans for possessing Fentanyl test strips," Senator Justin Boyd said.

He introduced Senate Bill 40 which won't consider the test strips as "drug paraphernalia."

The same language is included in Senate Bill 283 which is sponsored by Republican Senator Ben Gilmore. Though it's part of a more broad bill, which strengthens the state's enforcement of the powerful synthetic opioid.

"It really dates back to model legislation from the 1970s. It was introduced and it was just included in the bill. It's just never been updated," Gilmore said.

Though people like Amber agree that legalizing the test strips, part of SB 283 strictly holds a person responsible if they were to deliver Fentanyl to someone else and that person dies.

She believes that isn't a solution to the increase in Fentanyl use happening in Arkansas.

"So someone who maybe sells goes to prison for 30 years gets out, [and] doesn't have anything to come back to goes back into dealing, nothing was solved and you've just created longer-lasting problems," Kincaid explained.

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