House Passes Bill to Make Penalties Permanent for Fentanyl-Related Drugs

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill that would create permanent, stiff criminal penalties and tighter regulations for fentanyl-related drugs, with a large number of Democrats joining the vote, along with nearly all Republicans, to make both parties the most urgent in the United States. It has become a reflection of the political agenda of tackling drugs that it believes to be crisis.

Approved by a vote of 289 to 133, the bill permanently lists fentanyl-related drugs as Schedule I controlled substances, a designation that mandates heavy penalties for highly addictive non-medical chemicals. This designation is currently scheduled to expire at the end of this year. 2024.

The bipartisan vote reflected a consensus among solid blocs of Republicans and Democrats that tougher penalties for fentanyl-related drugs are a necessary element of the federal response to the crisis. Fentanyl-related drugs were responsible for most of the roughly 75,000 synthetic opioid overdose deaths in 2022, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Virginia Rep. Morgan Griffiths, the bill’s author, said on the floor of the House that “we should agree and vote to push for this bill that will help stop the bad guys.” “If fentanyl analogues become Schedule I permanently, Congress will be able to develop this to address the illegal crisis.”

But there is deep division over the implications of doing so, and the bill’s fate in the Democratic-led Senate remains uncertain.

Many Democrats, along with public health and civil rights groups, say heavy sentences for fentanyl-related drugs drive up incarceration rates and disproportionately affect people of color. They argue that further criminalizing these will only exacerbate the crisis, calling for better public education, more addiction treatment and recovery services, and a public health response that includes overdose prevention. ing.

The White House last week expressed support for the House bill, while making other recommendations, such as narrowing the minimum sentence to apply only when the drug could lead to death or serious injury. He asked Congress to look into it.

But on the House floor on Thursday, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (NJ), the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, called the Republican bill “unilateral” and “a waste to imprison our way out.” such an attempt,” he criticized. It’s a public health crisis. “

“This war on drugs, mandatory sentencing, imprisonment for everyone, is not working,” Parone said. “Other drugs didn’t help.”

Still, with Republicans trying to make their party look politically weak, a large group of Democrats (some of them from battlegrounds) lined up to support the bill, forming a coalition. He was eager to show his commitment to the opioid crisis. problem.

Minnesota Rep. Angie Craig, one of 74 Democrats who cross-partisanly endorsed the bill, said: “Perfection is not the enemy of good here.”

“There’s an American crisis right in front of us here. I think what we’ve seen from the White House is that they recognize this as a crisis,” Craig said Thursday’s bill said. It can pass the House, and we will.” Let’s see what happens in the Senate. “

The debate is the latest and most focused battle to be waged in Congress over fentanyl, and the synthetic opioid crisis is tackling other political issues, such as how to deal with the growing threat from China and bitter conflicts over border security. It has been prominently featured in political policy battles. and immigration. Republicans in particular frequently cite the surge in fentanyl-related deaths across the country as a reason to crack down on immigration and impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. This is despite the fact that most of it is brought in from the port of entry. By US Citizens.

Under Schedule I, trafficking 10 grams of fentanyl carries a minimum sentence of five years in prison, and possession of 100 grams carries a minimum sentence of 10 years. A few milligrams can be lethal for some fentanyl analogues, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The law would allow drugs already listed elsewhere (such as fentanyl itself, which is listed on Schedule II as an ingredient in various federally approved drugs), and fentanyl analogs for potential beneficial uses. We make an exception for institutions that study the body.

But Democrats said the bill did not include delistings of fentanyl-related drugs, which later turned out to be beneficial, and instructions for commuting or revoking sentences for those convicted of related crimes. expressed concern.

Only Republicans have supported the accompanying bill in the Senate so far, and Democratic leaders were unsure how many members of Congress would back the effort, especially after the White House’s support for the bill. .

The Administration will also seek permanent Schedule I designations for fentanyl-related drugs and a narrower application of mandatory minimum sentences, as well as removals from the list of fentanyl-related drugs found to have medicinal properties, reducing or revoking associated criminal penalties. We propose a mechanism to make . It also calls for research into how permanent scheduling affects research, civil rights, and the illicit manufacture and trafficking of fentanyl analogues.

Many of these proposals are included in a bipartisan bill still pending in Congress.

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