White House pushes to make fentanyl a Schedule 1 drug as overdoses soar


The Biden administration announced Thursday that it had recommended to Congress that fentanyl-related substances be permanently classified as a Schedule 1 drug, as drug overdoses in the nation soar. 

But the new policy would exclude the drugs from most instances of quantity-based mandatory minimum penalties, which civil rights groups had warned could exacerbate racial disparities in the criminal justice system. 

‘By acting on these recommendations, Congress can take decisive action against the fastest growing driver of overdoses in the country, while protecting civil rights and encouraging scientific research,’ Regina LaBelle, the acting director of National Drug Control Policy, said Thursday in a statement.   

President Joe Biden’s administration presented recommendations to Congress on Thursday, saying that fentanyl-related substances should be permanently classified as a Schedule 1 drug, but without mandatory minimum sentences 

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that has been used as a cheap way to cut heroin - and more recently cocaine - often with devastating results. Six people died of overdoses just last weekend on Long Island's North Folk due to cocaine that had been tainted with fentanyl

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that has been used as a cheap way to cut heroin – and more recently cocaine – often with devastating results. Six people died of overdoses just last weekend on Long Island’s North Folk due to cocaine that had been tainted with fentanyl 

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid.  

It’s been used as a cheap way to cut heroin – and more recently cocaine – often with devastating results. 

For instance, six people died of overdoses just last weekend on Long Island’s North Fork because fentanyl had been added to recreational cocaine.  

In July, the White House released data that showed a record 93,000 overdose deaths in 2020, with the fastest driver of this trend being synthetic fentanyl. 

In February 2018, during the Trump administration, the Department of Justice issued a rule temporarily making fentanyl analogues Schedule 1 drugs. 

Biden extended it through late October earlier this year. 

Neither Republicans nor critics of the War on Drugs were happy with the compromise announced Thursday. 

Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, argued that by scrapping mandatory minimum sentences the administration was being too soft on criminals.  

‘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, which first reported the fentanyl development. 

The policy would allow mandatory minimums to be used in sentencing ‘for cases where death or serious bodily injury can be directly linked to the FRS that was trafficked,’ the policy announcement said.  

Later Thursday afternoon, former Trump aide Stephen Miller tweeted, ‘Open border + leniency for fentanyl trafficking.’ 

‘Is Biden at this point just trying to do as much damage as he can?’ Miller mused. 

Republicans have linked the border surge under Biden with the uptick in overdoses. 

In April alone there was a 233 per cent increase in fentanyl seizures on the U.S.-Mexico border, Fox News reported. 

Last week, more than 140 groups urged the Biden administration to let the Trump administration’s temporary ‘classwide’ emergency scheduling of fentanyl-related substances expire on October 22.   

It said that the ‘federal government must not repeat the decades-old mistakes it made around crack-powder sentencing disparities.’ 

‘Enforcement-first responses to drug policy, including classwide drug scheduling of fentanyl analogues, have only entrenched racial disparities in the criminal legal system and locked in tougher sentences, without reducing overdose deaths,’ the letter said.  

‘These responses deter scientific research and ignore the root causes of the overdose crisis, thwarting any meaningful public health solutions,’ it continued. ‘The most effective ways to address the overdose crisis are evidence-based public health and harm reduction approaches.’

Stephen Miller, a top aide in the Trump White House, tweeted Thursday: 'Open border + leniency for fentanyl trafficking. Is Biden at this point just trying to do as much damage as he can?'

Stephen Miller, a top aide in the Trump White House, tweeted Thursday: ‘Open border + leniency for fentanyl trafficking. Is Biden at this point just trying to do as much damage as he can?’ 

The letter was spearheaded by the Drug Policy Alliance and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and signed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, Tulane University and many more. 

Maritza Perez, the director of the Office of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance told DailyMail.com on Thursday that the administration’s proposal showed ‘President Biden’s continued commitment to failed drug war tactics of the past.’ 

‘All of the harms associated with criminalization will remain if this policy is implemented, such as the exacerbation of racial disparities in the criminal legal system,’ she said. 

‘It is important to note that the Biden proposal will still expose some people to mandatory minimums. And there is no retroactive relief for individuals currently serving a sentence pursuant to the classwide policy,’ she continued.   

‘Rather than encouraging people to seek help, this policy will continue to push people who use drugs into the shadows, creating an environment where drug use can be unsafe,’ she added. ‘The Biden Administration had an opportunity to make a real investment in health services and instead chose to perpetuate harm.’            



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