President Joe Biden’s administration is pushing to cut back on some penalties for trafficking fentanyl, one of the most potent and deadly illicit drugs circulating in the U.S.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that 73% of opioid deaths in 2019 came as a result of synthetic opioids like fentanyl. The agency also says that deaths involving synthetic opioids rose 15% from 2018 to 2019. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid originating largely from China that is many times more potent than heroin, so potent that just two milligrams is enough to cause a fatal overdose in an adult male.
“We are pleased to present to Congress a long-term, consensus approach that advances efforts to reduce the supply and availability of illicitly manufactured [Fentanyl-related-substances] FRS, while protecting civil rights, and reducing barriers to scientific research for all schedule I substances,” acting ONDCP Director Regina LaBelle said Thursday. (RELATED: Kabul Airport Bombings Mark Third Deadliest Day For US Troops In Afghanistan War)
LaBelle added that the Department of Justice (DOJ) had only reported eight cases involving FRS charges between 2018 and 2020.
“The proposal would exclude those FRS that are scheduled by class from certain quantity-based mandatory minimum penalties normally associated with domestic trafficking, and import and export offenses of CSA schedule I compounds,” she added. “It would further ensure that a federal court can vacate or reduce the sentence of an individual convicted of an offense involving an individual FRS that is subsequently removed or rescheduled from schedule I.”
Republicans in Congress have criticized the administration’s move, including Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley.
“Fentanyl analogues kill thousands of Americans each year. To protect our communities from the dealers pushing this poison, President Biden needs to keep them off the streets, not let them off the hook,” Cotton told Fox News.
“For months, I’ve been calling on the Biden administration to get serious about combatting fentanyl knockoffs, which led to a record number of overdose deaths in the United States last year,” Grassley told Fox.
“The plan, released mere weeks before a temporary scheduling authority expires, sets us up for a rushed process that doesn’t allow for the methodical review that this issues demands. While the plan provides some greater certainty on how deadly fentanyl-like substances will be controlled, it appears that the Biden administration cares more about avoiding new penalties than holding drug traffickers accountable for fueling an opioid epidemic that continues to destroy families and erode communities across the country.”