Attorneys General From Every State Push For Congressional Action To Beef Up Fentanyl Enforcement

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Attorneys general from every state, as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, are uniting to push for congressional action on “vital” legislation to aid law enforcement in the fight against fentanyl.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, a Republican, and Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, a Democrat, sent a bipartisan letter to Congress Thursday on behalf of the National Association of Attorneys General calling for “swift passage” of a bill giving the Drug Enforcement Administration power to list all current fentanyl analogues, as well as any future chemical variations that emerge, as Schedule I controlled substances.

Fentanyl analogues, or synthetic replications of the opioid painkiller with slight chemical alterations, are increasingly prevalent in drug supplies across the country, however, prosecutions often cannot move forward without the controlled substance designation.

Officials argue the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues (SOFA) Act will close these loopholes and give federal officials the tools to proactively fight international traffickers who frequently manufacture new fentanyl analogues that spread death throughout the country. (RELATED: Portman Says ‘The President Is Waiting, Pen In Hand’ For Opioid Bill Targeting Fentanyl Trafficking)

“Combating the newest front in the crisis — fentanyl and its analogues — will require an all-hands-on-deck effort and passing the SOFA Act is an essential piece of the puzzle,” Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, sponsor of the SOFA Act in the House, said in a statement Thursday. “I’m extremely grateful to AGs Schimel and Jepsen for leading this bipartisan letter and to Senator Johnson for his efforts in the Senate. It’s imperative that Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell bring the SOFA Act up for consideration when Congress reconvenes.”

Fentanyl, a painkiller roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, is blamed as the primary fuel of the current opioid epidemic ravaging the country. Only 2 milligrams of the synthetic opioid can cause an adult to suffer a fatal overdose. Fentanyl analogues vary in strength and can be up to 100 times more powerful than fentanyl.

Data released by officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on July 11 reveals the majority of opioid-linked deaths throughout the U.S. are now the result of synthetic opioids like fentanyl and its analogues. The report shows synthetic opioids killed roughly 27,000 people across the U.S. over the 12-month period ending in November 2017, up from roughly 19,413 lives in 2016 and 9,580 lives in 2015.

“The widespread introduction of fentanyl and its analogues into illicit drug markets has resulted in skyrocketing overdose rates throughout the country,” Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who is sponsoring the bill in the Senate, said in a statement Thursday. “The SOFA Act will give law enforcement important new tools to curb the supply of illicit fentanyl and close legal loopholes that have allowed criminal drug manufacturers and traffickers to stay one step ahead of the law.”

Drug overdoses, fueled by synthetic opioids, are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under the age of 50. Officials with the CDC estimate drug overdoses killed roughly 72,000 people across the U.S. in 2017, exceeding the annual death toll from car crashes and guns.

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