Muzzall fentanyl test strip bill gets unanimous vote

Opioid overdose deaths have been skyrocketing in Washington State. King County saw over 1,000 overdose deaths last year and 70% of the victims had fentanyl in their system. While legislators recently approved a measure to deal with drug possession and treatment, legislation sponsored by Sen. Ron Muzzall to help reduce immediate harm received unanimous approval in the state Senate today.

Senate Bill 5022 would remove fentanyl testing strips from the list of illegal drug paraphernalia. Many jurisdictions around the state are already distributing these test strips but are doing so illegally.

“It no secret that communities around our state are being deeply affected by the opioid epidemic. While we have some work to do to get at the root causes, we can at least deal with the effects by providing life-saving interventions,” said Muzzall, R-Oak Harbor. “Like the state did with Narcan in 2020, we need to change this law so that this deadly fentanyl scourge will hopefully take fewer lives.”

In addition to delisting test strips, Muzzall’s bipartisan legislation would allow public health and community organizations to either sell or provide the test strips.

“People struggling with addiction know that they’re doing is harmful, but they likely are not intending to ingest a substance as deadly as fentanyl,” Muzzall lamented. “I don’t want people to be doing drugs in the first place, but I certainly don’t want them do die unwittingly. Removing test strips from the classification and engaging community partners will hopefully put a dent in the number of overdose deaths we are seeing.”

The House of Representatives will now take up Muzzall’s bill in the public hearing process. They must move it out of committee and vote to approve the proposal by April 12.