What is Rainbow Fentanyl?

November 1, 2022 Criminal Defense, Drug Charges

The DEA has released a warning on “rainbow fentanyl” after police seized 12,000 fentanyl pills from the Los Angeles airport last week. The brightly colored pills contain the highly toxic drug fentanyl but were found hidden inside candy boxes such as Skittles and SweeTarts.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is extremely dangerous, and often lethal. In Florida alone, there have been nearly 85 pounds of fentanyl seized by law enforcement in the past few months. According to Attorney General Moody’s news alert, that’s enough fentanyl to kill everyone in 66 of the 67 counties in Florida.

“Rainbow fentanyl—fentanyl pills and powder that come in a variety of bright colors, shapes, and sizes—is a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction amongst kids and young adults,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram.

The brightly colored fentanyl is being sold in multiple forms: including pills, powder, and blocks that look similar to sidewalk chalk. There has not yet been any indication that any shape or color is more potent than others. The DEA stresses that every color, shape, and size of fentanyl should be considered extremely dangerous.

Facts on Fentanyl

Attorney General Ashley Moody released a document titled “Fast Facts on Fentanyl” which is a toolkit meant for parents who are concerned about their children purchasing illegal substances from digital drug dealers. The toolkit aims to highlight how online drug deals are utilizing social media to sell illicit drugs. The following is a list of facts on fentanyl from the document:

  • Fentanyl is approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin.
  • It can be lethal for a person to ingest just 2 milligrams of fentanyl, which is equivalent to the size of 10-15 grains of table salt.
  • In 2021, the National Institute of Health reported that police officers around the U.S. seized nearly 10 million counterfeit pills with fentanyl. This is a 50-fold increase in only 3 years.
  • DEA lab testing reported that 4 out of every 10 pills with fentanyl has a potentially lethal dose.
  • Counterfeit pills have been seized in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, at record rates.

Drug dealers have also started to modernize, ditching the streets for social media as a way to sell drugs. By selling online, criminal drug traffickers can reach targets of all ages. For instance, a curious teenager could order pills through Snapchat, or an elderly person could be searching for painkillers online and come across a dealer instead.

“The drug dealer isn’t just standing on a street corner anymore. It’s sitting in a pocket on your phone,” said Anne Milgram, DEA Administrator. Authorities worry that these lethal substances are becoming easier to obtain and are reaching communities, faster and cheaper than ever before.

Fentanyl Possession Florida

Fentanyl is listed as a Schedule II drug on the State’s Drug Schedule. A substance listed under Schedule II has a high potential for abuse and currently has an accepted but extremely restricted medical use in treatment in the United States. Any abuse of a Schedule II drug may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.

Florida Statute section 893.12(6)(a) explains that unless an individual has lawfully obtained a substance from a practitioner or pursuant to a valid prescription, it is against the law to be in actual or constructive possession of fentanyl. Violating this law and getting caught with the possession of fentanyl may result in a third-degree felony charge.

A third-degree felony charge has the following penalties:

  • Up to a $5,000 fine
  • Up to 5 years in prison
  • Up to 5 years of probation

Possession of fentanyl is ranked as a Level 3 offense under Florida’s severity ranking system. That means the judge could only sentence the defendant to probation, or they could also choose to impose the maximum sentence of 5 years in prison. In addition to serving time in prison, the Florida courts can also revoke the defendant’s driver’s license for up to six months after getting convicted of fentanyl possession.

After a suspect has been arrested for an alleged fentanyl possession, authorities will likely test and weigh the seized substances. If the mixture has a weight of 4 grams or more, they can be charged for trafficking fentanyl, which carries enhanced charges and penalties.

Florida Statute section 893.135 defines trafficking as when an individual knowingly purchases, possesses, manufactures, transports, sells, or delivers four grams or more of the illicit drug. A person convicted of trafficking fentanyl in Florida can face the following mandatory minimum sentences, depending on the amount of fentanyl in possession:

  • Between 4 and 13.9 grams – Fine of $50,000 and three years in prison
  • Between 14 and 27.9 grams – Fine of $100,000 and fifteen years in prison
  • 28 grams or more – Fine of $500,000 and 25 years in prison

The Prescription Defense

If you or a loved one are charged with possession of a controlled substance for which the defendant had a valid prescription, they may be able to raise the Prescription Defense. This is a type of affirmative defense, which means that the defendant is admitting to the alleged charge but avoids either all or some of the liability because they can introduce evidence that excuses their actions.

In the case of a controlled substance, the accused admits that they had the controlled substances on them, but by presenting evidence showing that they were able to legally have that prescription drug, the defendant is able to prove they are not guilty of the charged crime.

To read more about this and other available defenses, you can go to our blog here.

Some Common Myths about Fentanyl

  • To overdose, fentanyl must be “introduced into the bloodstream or a mucus membrane in order for someone to feel the effects. While there are fentanyl patches that can be placed on the skin for pain management, this is not the formulation that’s cut into other substances. This was a big fear for law enforcement. They were worried and stressed about responding to overdose calls because they thought that just touching “a tiny grain of fentanyl” could cause you to “possibly die.” This misinformation can lead to devastating results, as law enforcement officers may be wary when responding to overdose calls, resulting in a gap or hesitancy in treatment for those suffering potentially fatal overdoses.
  • Illicit fentanyl is very different from medicinal and legal fentanyl. They are made very differently, with illegal fentanyl being made in secret off-nation labs and sold as heroin.
  • Many people think that dizziness, rapid heartbeat, nausea, and vomiting are symptoms of fentanyl exposure. But, according to experts, those symptoms are more analogous to panic disorders than “respiratory depression associated with opioid or synthetic opioid overdose.”
  • Another prevalent myth is that naloxone doesn’t work for fentanyl overdoses. This could be the most dangerous myth. Naloxone is a medicine that reverses an opioid overdose by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain and preventing the effects of the drugs. It works for any opioid including fentanyl.

Additional Tips and Resources for Parents

Attorney General Ashley Moody has compiled a list of tips for parents to ensure that they are speaking with their children about the dangers of illicit drug use. The following is what Moody recommends parents should do with their children:

  • Make clear rules and consequences for children and young adults. Even if it is a difficult and scary conversation with a child, illicit drugs are far scarier;
  • Keep the conversation age-appropriate—as a discussion on drugs with a middle schooler should differ from a discussion with a high school or college-level student;
  • Discuss just how dangerous addiction is and how even one pill has enough potency to be lethal; and
  • Reassure children that they can freely speak about the subject at home, as keeping an open conversation builds trust in healthy way.

In addition to these helpful tips, here is a list of resources for both parents and students if they have any further questions or concerns:

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or someone you love has been accused of possessing an illegal substance, it is in your best interest to seek out the legal help of a defense attorney. A drug possession conviction can lead to expensive fines, jail time, and dealing with the social stigma of being considered a drug user.

Depending on the amount the person was accused of having in their possession, there could be even more severe punishments if the police believe the defendant was trafficking the substance. Contact a skilled drug crime defense attorney today at Pumphrey Law Firm, where our team vows to stand in your corner and fight for your future. Call us at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

Back to Top