BRADENTON -- Attorney General Pam Bondi came to town Wednesday in honor of Manatee Bar's Law Day Luncheon, and she focused intensely on drugs -- legal and illegal.
In her keynote speech to the Manatee County Bar Association, Bondi mentioned many issues she is tackling as attorney general. Her main focus was how her office is tackling Florida's drug
"Traveling the state of Florida, I learned that seven Floridians were dying per day because of the Oxycodone abuse in our state. That was outrageous and it had to stop," Bondi said. "Of the top 100 Oxycodone dispensers in the entire country, 98 of them lived in our state. Come on. That's ridiculous."
Bondi said after seven years of failed legislation, the state Legislature and governor approved pill mill laws in late 2010. Now, she said, none of those dispensers live in the state and Oxycodone-related deaths have decreased 52 percent.
Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube, among the dozens of attorneys, politicians and law enforcement officers at the lunch, said the number of arrests associated with Oxycodone decreased after pill mill legislation went into effect.
"It's still a problem in our community, but not as bad as a few years ago," he said.
Bondi also talked about new drugs becoming an issue for Florida., including a synthetic drug that can contain acid, LSD and heroin. It goes by slang terms such as "scooby-doo" and "cotton candy," which is what the drug resembles in feel and smell. Bondi signed an order to outlaw it, but she warned some store clerks are still selling it under the table.
"With the stroke of a pen, I can make something illegal until it goes through session the following year," Bondi said. "I have only exercised that authority with these synthetic drugs."
Two weeks ago, Sarasota sheriff's investigators intercepted a half kilo, or about 5,000 doses, of the synthetic drug known as ecstasy or molly.
Bondi also said a new drug already approved by the Federal Drug Administration called Zohydro is 10 times stronger than Oxycodone.
"It's unbelievable. They (FDA) have an advisory panel that recommended 11-2, do not release this. But they chose to release Zohydro," she said. "We're fighting them. We're still fighting them."
There haven't been problems with Zohydro yet, according to Steube, but he is concerned it will become an issue soon.
"With all the problems with Oxycodone, I can't believe they (FDA) put this out there," he said.
Earlier, the judges of the 12th Judicial Circuit awarded the annual Jim Slater Award for Professionalism in the Practice of Criminal Law to Assistant State Attorney Brian Iten. The award is named in honor of Jim Slater, a well-respected chief assistant public defender in Manatee County who died suddenly of cancer in 2005.
Iten commonly works on crime scenes to bridge the gap between law enforcement officials and the State Attorney's Office.
"Criminal law isn't glamorous. It doesn't involve money. What it involves, oftentimes, is people at their worst. And the stakes for criminal law are as high as they can be," Iten said as he accepted the award. "We're talking about the liberty of people, of our citizens. We're talking about matters of life and death."