JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Some Mississippi legislators say they will renew efforts to clarify that people may possess chemical strips to detect traces of the deadly drug fentanyl.
A bill to decriminalize the test strips died early this year. But the House Drug Policy Committee chairman, Republican Rep. Lee Yancy of Brandon now supports the effort, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported.
Rep. Sam Creekmore, a Republican from New Albany, said he will introduce a bill during the legislative session that begins in January.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid more lethal than heroin, has pushed drug overdoses to new highs in America. Delivering test strips to people is part of a strategy known as “harm reduction” that gives appropriate products to drug users to prevent accidental overdoses.
If someone is about the take an illicit drug, they brush part of the substance against a test strip to see if it contains trace amounts of fentanyl.
Opponents say the strategy encourages drug users to continue an addiction, but health professionals who testified at a legislative committee meeting Monday said it’s a useful mitigation strategy that can save lives.
Dr. Daniel Edney, Mississippi’s state health officer, said he wants people who use drugs to seek professional help to end their addiction, but they also need “harm reduction” tools to help them in the short-term.
“The test strips are not going to encourage people to use drugs,” Edney said. “Those who are going to use drugs are going to continue to use drugs, anyway.”
Col. Steven Maxwell, director of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, said he has no objections to legislators making the test strips legal, and he already does not consider them drug paraphernalia under state law.