HomePoliticsHouse Passes Bill to Make Penalties Permanent for Fentanyl-Related Drugs - UnlistedNews

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

The House of Representatives approved legislation on Thursday that would establish permanent harsh criminal penalties and strict controls on drugs related to fentanyl, with dozens of Democrats joining nearly all Republicans in a vote that reflected the political challenges of addressing what both parties they consider America’s most pressing drug. crisis.

The bill, approved by a vote of 289-133, would permanently list fentanyl-related drugs as a Schedule I controlled substance, a designation that requires severe prison sentences for highly addictive non-medical chemicals, and which it will now expire at the end of 2024.

The bipartisan vote reflected agreement between Republicans and a strong bloc of Democrats that tougher penalties for fentanyl-related drugs is a necessary component of the federal response to the crisis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were approximately 75,000 overdose deaths from synthetic opioids in 2022, with fentanyl being the main culprit.

“We should vote to advance this bill that we agree on that helps stop the bad guys,” Rep. Morgan Griffith, a Virginia Republican and author of the bill, said on the House floor. “Once fentanyl analogues become Schedule I permanently, Congress can take advantage of this and deal with the illicit crisis.”

But there are deep divisions over the ramifications of doing so, leaving the legislation’s fate unclear in the Democratic-led Senate.

Many Democrats, along with public health and civil rights groups, point out that harsh sentences for fentanyl-related drugs have increased incarceration rates and have disproportionately affected people of color. They argue that further criminalizing them will only worsen the crisis and have called for a public health response that includes better public education, more addiction treatment and recovery services, as well as overdose prevention.

The White House last week ruled in favor of the House bill, while urging Congress to consider its other recommendations, including tighter mandatory minimum sentences that would apply only to cases where the substance could be related to death or serious bodily injury.

But on Thursday in the House of Representatives, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, broadly denounced the GOP bill, calling it “one-sided” and a futile attempt to “imprison our way out”. of a public health crisis.

“This war on drugs — mandatory sentences, jail everyone — hasn’t worked,” Pallone said. “It didn’t work with other drugs.”

Still, a large group of Democrats, some of them from competitive districts, lined up in support of the measure, eager to show they were working to address the synthetic opioid crisis at a time when Republicans have tried to introduce their party as weak at the base. affair.

Rep. Angie Craig of Minnesota, one of 74 Democrats who crossed party lines and supported the bill, said she was “not going to let perfect be the enemy of good here.”

“We have an American crisis at hand, and I think what they saw in the White House is that they recognize that this is a crisis,” Ms. Craig said, noting that Thursday’s bill “is what can pass the Chamber, and we will see what happens in the Senate.

The debate was only the latest and most focused fight to unfold over fentanyl in Congress, where the synthetic opioid crisis has figured prominently in other politically charged political battles, such as how to address growing threats from China and a bitter standoff over border security. and immigration. Republicans in particular have frequently cited the rise in fentanyl-related deaths across the country as a reason to clamp down on immigration and impeach Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the secretary of homeland security, despite the fact that most part of those drugs enter through the ports of entry. by US citizens.

Currently, under Schedule I, a person caught trafficking 10 grams of a fentanyl analogue would receive a minimum prison sentence of five years, while a person transporting 100 grams would receive a minimum sentence of 10 years. But the legislation would end up lowering those thresholds even further, experts say, because of the way it defines a “fentanyl-related substance,” so that even if a trace amount of fentanyl analogue appeared in a 10-gram sample, would trigger the mandatory minimum sentence of five years.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, with some fentanyl analogues, a few milligrams can be a deadly dose.

The legislation makes exceptions for drugs already listed elsewhere, such as fentanyl itself, which, as an ingredient in several federally-approved drugs, is listed on Schedule II, and for institutions investigating fentanyl analogues for possible beneficial use.

But Democrats expressed concern that the bill contains no instructions to remove fentanyl-related drugs later found to be beneficial from the list, or to reduce or vacate the sentences of people convicted of related crimes.

A companion bill in the Senate so far only has Republican support, and Democratic leaders were unsure how many of their members might back the effort, particularly after the White House statement of support.

The administration has proposed coupling the permanent Schedule I designation of fentanyl-related drugs with stricter enforcement of mandatory minimum sentences, as well as a mechanism to delist fentanyl-related drugs found to have harmful properties. medicinal products and to reduce or vacate any related criminal sentences. . He has also called for a study of how permanent programming would affect research, civil rights, and the illicit production and trafficking of fentanyl analogues.

Many of those proposals have been included in bipartisan bills still pending in Congress.

Sara Marcus
Sara Marcushttps://unlistednews.com
Meet Sara Marcus, our newest addition to the Unlisted News team! Sara is a talented author and cultural critic, whose work has appeared in a variety of publications. Sara's writing style is characterized by its incisiveness and thought-provoking nature, and her insightful commentary on music, politics, and social justice is sure to captivate our readers. We are thrilled to have her join our team and look forward to sharing her work with our readers.


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