TAMPA, Fla. — Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and law enforcement leaders from across the state held a news conference Wednesday urging Floridians to fight against fentanyl.
Moody said they are seeing a growing problem with the number of seizures and overdoses. She says fentanyl is flooding into the state at a rapid pace.
"In July alone we saw a record amount of fentanyl seized at our southern border," she said. " It was enough fentanyl to kill the United States population."
Throughout the conference, she urged families to have conversations with their kids and loved ones. In part, she said, "I'm warning parents — I'm a mother of a young school-aged child — I have had these difficult conversations in my own home. And if you have hesitated or think your child is too young or haven't wanted to do this yet. Do it tonight."
New rainbow-colored pills laced with fentanyl were also mentioned during the conference.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, brightly colored fentanyl and fentanyl pills have been found in 18 states. Authorities said it appears to be a new trend being used by drug cartels to sell the highly addictive drug and make it look like candy to children and young people.
Moody said law enforcement is going after dealers and more state attorneys are using the death by distribution law to stop this highly toxic drug from circulating communities.
Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said the amount of fentanyl the agency seized in the last two years is enough to kill everyone in Pinellas County three times over. He said the substance is wreaking havoc in local communities.
Gualtieri said his officers respond to about 200 overdose calls a month and about 30 of them result in death.
During the conference, stories were shared about children being exposed to the substance and dying and people who believe they are taking illicit drugs actually taking fentanyl-laced drugs and overdosing.
Families Against Fentanyl founder James Rauh said in part, "It's our objective to have fentanyl declared a weapon of mass destruction by the United States government." He added, "we see that fentanyl is invading our society at an alarming rate. This designation will allow us to cut off the supply of fentanyl and put an end to this."
Moody said the push for the federal government to consider fentanyl a weapon of mass destruction could open more resources to stop drug trafficking. In the meantime, she encourages citizens to help law enforcement by calling **TIPS with any information on drug trafficking.
According to Live Tampa Bay, the overdose rate is 10% higher than in the rest of the state.
10 Tampa Bay did an investigation on fentanyl and its effect on the Tampa Bay community. Check it out here.