House Republicans pass bill to make fentanyl a permanent Schedule 1 drug and tougher criminal penalties: Dozens of Democrats back legislation to quell outbreak
- Fentanyl is currently the leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of 18 and 49, and synthetic opioids accounted for 66% of total overdose deaths in the United States.
- The bill garnered bipartisan support in a vote of 289 to 133
- 74 Democrats crossed party lines to vote for the measure
The House of Representatives has passed a bill to quell the deadly opioid crisis across the country by imposing tougher penalties on drug dealers and permanently designating fentanyl as a Schedule 1 narcotic.
By classifying fentanyl as a Schedule 1 drug, law enforcement is given increased power to prosecute traffickers, as dealers face stiffer penalties for possession and distribution. The bill also removes barriers limiting researchers conducting studies on the substances.
The Republican-led bill garnered bipartisan support in a vote of 289 to 133, and the only Republican who voted “no” Thursday on the HALT Fentanyl Act was Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky. Seventy-four Democrats crossed party lines to vote for the measure.
Fentanyl is currently the leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of 18 and 49, and synthetic opioids accounted for 66% of total overdose deaths in the United States.
Legislation Led by Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., Now Heads to the Senate
In 2018, the former Trump administration temporarily scheduled all synthetic opioids, and Congress extended the authorization a few times. But the temporary status is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2024, prompting Congress to make it permanent.
The Biden administration has been accused of kicking the permanent schedule, which law enforcement officials say has made their jobs more difficult.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy urged his members to take action to combat the deadly outbreak as fentanyl and other drugs continue to be smuggled across the southern border with little consequence for dealers who distribute drugs to Americans.
The speaker celebrated the bill’s passage on Thursday, saying, “The HALT Fentanyl Act is a necessary tool to help stop the flow of fentanyl and provides law enforcement with the authority they need to help fight this crime in an adequate way”.
McCarthy also blamed President Biden for not doing his job as the drug crisis has worsened over the past two years.
Fentanyl and other drugs continue to be smuggled across the southern border with little consequence
“I urge my colleagues in the Senate to quickly pass this legislation so that we can send it to the president’s office to be signed into law,” Griffith said.
“Like every other crisis that Democrats ignore, House Republicans are committed to providing solutions,” McCarthy continued.
Legislation led by Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., and Bob Latta, R-Ohio, is now heading to the Senate, where there is a companion bill led by Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.
“As drug overdose deaths reach historic levels in our country, the HALT Fentanyl Act offers a way forward amid the tragedy of addiction,” Griffith said.
“I urge my colleagues in the Senate to quickly pass this legislation so that we can send it to the President’s office to be signed into law.”
The White House expressed support for the House-led bill, but also called for tougher mandatory minimum sentences.
Under Schedule I, if a drug trafficker is caught distributing 10 grams of fentanyl, he would face a minimum of five years in prison.
If they trafficked 100 grams – that would increase the minimum to 10 years.