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Walden: Congress Needs to Extend Critical Tool to Fight Fentanyl


01.24.20

WASHINGTON, DC – In just a one-year period, synthetic opioids like fentanyl claimed more than 32,000 Americans lives. The Energy and Commerce Committee heard these devastating stories from people firsthand. At an E&C roundtable, Michael Gray shared the story of his daughter, Amanda, who lost her life to fentanyl at 24.

To fight this epidemic, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was able to enact a powerful but temporary tool. Drug traffickers could previously create new variations of fentanyl by changing as little as a molecule so that the fentanyl formula was not considered prohibited. Instead of only being able to go after specific fentanyl variations, the DEA could temporarily change the scheduling so that the administration could combat all “fentanyl-related substances.” The DEA’s ability to do this expires in just weeks.

The Senate has passed an extension, but so far Democrats in the House have failed to act. The House needs to pass an extension very soon so law enforcement does not lose or have a lapse on this important capability to fight fentanyl.

“Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee’s partisan obsession with impeachment is preventing us from taking common-sense action to extend a critical tool for law enforcement to combat the trafficking of fentanyl-related substances,” said E&C Republican Leader Greg Walden.

In addition, the Stop the Importation and Manufacturing of Synthetic Analogues (SIMSA) Act is one of 12 bills we could pass right now to build on the progress made with the landmark SUPPORT Act to combat the opioid crisis. This bipartisan bill written by Reps. John Katko (R-NY) and Kathleen Rice (D-NY) would provide additional tools to law enforcement to help remove illicit synthetic drugs from communities across America.

GOP Leaders Hit Nadler For Holding Up A Ban On Fentanyl During Impeachment Trial
By: Chris White

Republican Oregon Rep. Greg Walden believes House Democrats’ “obsession” with impeaching President Donald Trump is distracting them from passing a temporary ban on fentanyl substances.

Democratic New York Rep. Jerry Nadler is holding up legislation preventing the distribution of a substance health officials say is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, Walden said in a statement Friday to the Daily Caller News Foundation. The Oregon Republican said time is of the essence on this matter.

“Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee’s partisan obsession with impeachment is preventing us from taking common-sense action to extend a critical tool for law enforcement to combat the trafficking of fentanyl-related substances,” Walden said.

He added: “The Senate has passed an extension, but the House has yet to act. The House leadership needs to put the Senate bill on the floor next week so this critical authority does not lapse.”

Click here to read the story.

Commentary: Congress, don’t allow the ban on fentanyl-like drugs to expire
By: John R. Lausch Jr.

In 2018 alone, nearly 32,000 American men, women and children fatally overdosed on a synthetic opioid. One of the deadliest synthetic opioids is fentanyl, which is helping to drive our nation’s opioid crisis.

Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. There are also countless types of fentanyl analogues, which are similar in chemical structure to fentanyl, but can be even more potent. Carfentanil, the most powerful fentanyl analogue detected in the United States, is estimated to be 10,000 times more potent than morphine. Although commonly used as a tranquilizer for elephants and other large mammals, drug traffickers mix carfentanil or other fentanyl-related substances with heroin or other illicit drugs to make the drugs stronger.

Prior to 2018, drug traffickers created new fentanyl-like drugs, often by altering a single molecule in their formulas, in an attempt to skirt U.S. law, which had outlawed only a few fentanyl analogues. These new substances fell outside of U.S. control, requiring the Drug Enforcement Administration to restart the tedious process of identifying and controlling them on a substance-by-substance basis. Law enforcement and prosecutors were given the difficult task of keeping up with ruthless and well-financed drug traffickers and their unscrupulous chemists.

Click here to read the story.

Congress should act to allow a ban on fentanyl indefinitely
By: Editorial Board 

Government was slow to react, in part because fentanyl is devilishly protean. On the black market, it is not one drug but rather many “analogues,” each of which is chemically similar — but legally distinct. This hampered federal efforts to crack down on the supply pouring in from countless small labs in China, via Mexico or even international mail. Savvy drug producers could simply tweak a molecule or two, creating a “new” substance not presumed to be on the prohibited “schedule.” As a result, federal authorities were in the position, under existing statutes, of having to prosecute alleged analogue traffickers under a more difficult evidentiary standard than would otherwise have been required.

In February 2018, the Drug Enforcement Administration addressed this issue by invoking special emergency authorities to impose a “class-wide” ban on any and all fentanyl analogues. But this ban expires Feb. 6; it could be extended for at most one year, after consultations with the Department of Health and Human Services. For months, the Justice Department, with the support of 52 state and territory attorneys general (including those of Maryland, Virginia and the District), has been asking Congress to enact a law empowering the DEA on its own to keep the ban on fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances indefinitely. An effort to include the measure in the must-pass year-end spending bill failed, however, so there are only a few weeks left to avoid a reversion to the previous legal status quo.

Congress should enact the bill before that. Opponents ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union on the left to FreedomWorks on the right raise the generally valid point that drug use and addiction are primarily public-health matters that should be dealt with through treatment rather than criminal sanctions. Granting the DEA the ban it seeks, they argue, would give federal law enforcement the power to impose harsh mandatory minimum sentences for possession of an alleged analogue that may not have the same effects on the human body as fentanyl.

Click here to read the story.

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