America has been devastated by the opioid crisis. Every neighborhood in every community across the nation has been affected. Overdose deaths affected more than 100,000 people between April 2020 and April 2021. Among those who passed away, about 64,000 had used fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is up to 100 times more potent than morphine.
Recent legislation that would permanently categorize fentanyl was proposed by House Republicans. Democrats did not, however, join their Republican counterparts.
Fentanyl was temporarily classed by the previous Donald Trump administration in 2018 as a Category I drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Anything “fentanyl-related substances that are currently listed in any schedule of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA)” would be affected, according to a notification from the DEA Administrator published on the Federal Register. The choice was “necessary to avoid an imminent hazard to the public safety.”
The HALT Fentanyl Act (HR 467) was introduced by Reps. Bob Latta (R-OH) and H. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) in January. All fentanyl-related compounds would have been permanently reclassified as Schedule I narcotics under the proposed legislation. It would also have made it possible for additional researchers to study the substances. When the bill was first proposed, Griffith said in a statement that it “offers a way to make progress amid”the record number of opioid overdose deaths.”
The House Energy and Commerce Committee cast a vote on whether to approve the bill’s advancement on March 8. With the exception of Rep. Angie Craig, all Democrats opposed the bill, which the subcommittee approved 17 to 10 in favor of (D-MN).
Democrats contend that reclassifying the medicine to carry stiffer sanctions is the incorrect course of action. The reclassification is opposed by a number of groups as well. A letter encouraging lawmakers to oppose the reclassification was published by Human Rights Watch in March. It was written by public health and criminal justice reform organizations.
The organizations stated that the reclassification is erroneous because it isn’t supported by a complete grasp of the research and because it might affect compounds with therapeutic potential. Democrats and the groups also think that criminalizing the opioid epidemic risks imposing consequences for potentially safe substances while failing to address the issue’s underlying causes.
Democratic lawmakers think that drugs related to fentanyl that do not result in fatalities or substantial bodily injury shouldn’t be punished with obligatory minimum penalties.
Latta was not persuaded. He described drugs as “weapons of mass destruction” that require law enforcement.