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Congress Urged to Close Deadly Fentanyl Loophole


August 24, 2018
Friday PM

(SitNews) Anchorage, Alaska - Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth, as part of a bipartisan group of 52 state and territory attorneys general, called on Congress Thursday to help end the opioid epidemic and close a loophole that allows those who traffic deadly fentanyl to stay a step ahead of law enforcement.

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“This legislation is critical to stopping the opioid epidemic,” said Attorney General Lindemuth. “Drug traffickers are constantly coming up with new chemical compositions that are more deadly but may be different enough that they don’t constitute an illegal opioid under the Controlled Substances Act. The SOFA Act will close the loophole at the federal level and ensure traffickers will be held accountable.”

Led by Attorneys General Brad Schimel, R-Wis., and George Jepsen, D-Conn., the attorneys general sent a letter to Congress yesterday in support of S. 1553 and H.R. 4922, Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues (SOFA) Act. Fentanyl is currently a Schedule II controlled substance and when used as prescribed by a doctor, can be a safe painkiller. However outside of careful supervision, fentanyl and analogues manufactured illicitly can be lethal.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is used to treat late-stage cancer patients. However, fentanyl and its analogues have made their way onto the streets with alarming regularity and overdose deaths related to fentanyl now surpass deaths related to heroin according to the letter.

The SOFA Act, if passed by the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, would eliminate the current loophole which keeps the controlled substance scheduling system one step behind those who manufacture fentanyl analogues and then introduce these powders into the opioid supply. The SOFA Act will allow the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to proactively schedule all newly-modified fentanyl analogues, ensuring that their illegal distribution can be criminally prosecuted. 

At the state level, Alaska Governor Bill Walker introduced legislation last session as part of his Public Safety Action Plan that would allow the attorney general to adopt emergency regulations criminalizing dangerous substances, such as fentanyl analogues. The Governor’s bill was rolled into HB 312 and enacted into law. The new law will avoid the previous gaps on enforcement at the state level while waiting for the legislature to pass a statute listing the new substance.

“While we are making progress in addressing the opioid epidemic, the emergence of illicit fentanyl and related synthetic opioids into the drug market has made this crisis even more deadly,” said Dr. Jay Butler, Chief Medical Officer in the Department of Health and Social Services. “Many users do not realize that they are using fentanyl and it is even being found in some non-opioid street drugs. The combination of the powerful properties of fentanyl and the lack of awareness about its dangerous presence is killing Alaskans.”

Under the new state law, the Controlled Substances Advisory Committee makes recommendations to the Attorney General on what new synthetic drugs should be criminalized. The advisory committee looks forward to being able to address these issues more quickly, instead of having to wait for the next legislative session.

“These dangerous synthetic drugs can crop up at anytime,” said Deputy Attorney General Rob Henderson, who chairs the Controlled Substances Advisory Committee. “I want to thank the legislature and the governor for giving us the tools we need to get these drugs off the street at the state level as quickly as possible. Now, as soon as the advisory committee becomes aware of an issue, the State can act on it.” 

In addition to Alaska, Connecticut and Wisconsin, the other attorneys general who signed the letter to Congress were Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.


On the Web:

National Association of Attorneys General's 08/23/18 letter to Congress (pdf)

Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


Source of News:

Alaska Department of Law


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