Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted against a bill this week to classify fentanyl-related substances (FRS) as Schedule I substances — a vote that comes even as a record number of Americans are dying from those compounds every year.
The committee’s health subcommittee approved the bill in a 17-10 vote with every Democrat, except for Rep. Angie Craig (MN), voting against the measure.
Republicans are pushing the legislation because it will increase the mandatory minimum sentence for anyone caught having those substances in their possession, which they believe will lead to a significant reduction in their spread across the country. More than 70,000 Americans die per year from synthetic opioid overdoses, with fentanyl driving most of those deaths.
Schedule I substances are typically substances that have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” according to the DEA. However some of the substances on the list — including marijuana, magic mushrooms, and MDMA — have been used in states that either have legalized medical use of the substances or in clinical research settings.
The committee says that the legislation “closely tracks recommendations to Congress submitted by the Office of National Drug Control Policy in September 2021.”
“It would permanently place FRS into Schedule I of the CSA [Controlled Substances Act], simplify registration processes for certain research with Schedule I substances, removing barriers that currently impede such work, and provide for exemption of individual FRS from Schedule I when evidence demonstrates it is appropriate,” the committee added.
The text of the legislation lays out certain exceptions for research purposes and the process in which fentanyl-related substances could be exempted from the list, which include by action of the U.S. Attorney General or if the substance is expressly listed under another schedule classification. It is unclear how the legislation would impact current legitimate medical uses of FRS, although the text of the bill can still be easily modified.
Democrats’ primary opposition to the bill appears to be centered around increasing the mandatory minimum sentencing because Democrats see the issue as being more of a mental health issue than a criminal issue.
The DEA’s most recent National Drug Threat Assessment says that the majority of the fentanyl is brought into the U.S. by Mexican drug cartels through the unsecured southern border.
Tom Homan, former Acting Director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in a statement to The Daily Wire: “Fentanyl has killed more Americans than any other drug the past two years, including all drugs currently classified as Schedule 1.”
“This decision is the worst kind of politics and they should be ashamed and forced to explain their decision to over 100,000 American moms and dads whose families have been ripped apart,” he added.