Gus Bilirakis Backs Proposal to Crack Down on Xylazine

This week, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., threw his support behind a proposal “to crack down on and schedule the highly dangerous sedative causing fatal overdoses nationwide.”

U.S. Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., introduced the “Combating Illicit Xylazine Act,” with Bilirakis as one of the main co-sponsors. Other key backers include U.S. Reps. Ken Buck, R-Col., Chris Pappas, D-NH, and August Pfluger, R-Tex. The bill is being championed in the U.S. Senate by U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Maggie Hassan, D-NH, and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.

Bilirakis‘ office offered some of the reasons behind the proposal.

“Xylazine, also known as ‘tranq,’ is an easily accessible veterinary tranquilizer that is being used as a low-cost cutting agent. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) recently reported 23 percent of fentanyl powder contained it in 2022. Xylazine causes depressed breathing and heart rate, unconsciousness, necrosis, and even death, and naloxone does not reverse its effects because it is not an opioid. Despite alarming reports about the rise of xylazine, which has been called a “zombie drug,” federal, state, and local law enforcement do not have the tools necessary to effectively track it or crack down on traffickers using it to increase their profits,” the congressman’s office noted.

The bill “would address this gap in federal law by: classifying its illicit use under Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act; enabling the DEA to track its manufacturing to ensure it is not diverted to the illicit market; requiring a report on prevalence, risks, and recommendations to best regulate illicit use of xylazine; ensuring all salts and isomers of xylazine are covered when restricting its illicit use; declaring xylazine an emerging drug threat.”

“Our goal is to save lives and to make sure law enforcement has the tools its needs to respond appropriately to those who are making these deadly concoctions that are killing so many of our neighbors,” said Bilirakis. “At the same time, we must ensure that those veterinarians who are using xylazine for legitimate purposes have the ability to continue doing so. Our legislation strikes that right balance.”

“The recent rise in the illicit use of the combination of xylazine and fentanyl threatens the health and safety of every community. This toxic brew of drugs makes fentanyl, which has taken thousands of lives in California and around the country each year, not just cheaper but deadlier and more addictive,” said Panetta. “Although xylazine has legitimate uses in agriculture, we need to prevent it from being misused on the streets. My bipartisan, bicameral legislation will provide federal and local law enforcement with better tools to track xylazine, prevent its misuse, prosecute and penalize its illegal traffickers, and, ultimately, help protect our families and communities from the scourge of fentanyl.”

“Drug traffickers are going to great lengths to pad their profits with dangerous drugs like tranq, and we need to empower law enforcement to crack down on its spread in our communities,” said Cortez Masto. “This bipartisan legislation will ensure the DEA and local law enforcement have the tools they need to get xylazine off our streets while protecting its important use as a veterinary tranquilizer.”

“Drug overdoses remain unacceptably high as cartels and traffickers continue to flood our nation with deadly and ever-changing poison. We cannot successfully prevent these tragedies with one hand tied behind our back. We must keep pace with the evolving tactics of the drug trade. This bill recognizes the dangers posed by the increasing abuse of animal tranquilizers by drug traffickers, and provides new tools to combat this deadly trend. It also ensures that folks like veterinarians, ranchers and cattlemen can continue to access these drugs for bona fide animal treatment,” said Grassley.

“Xylazine is hurting New Hampshire communities and contributing to the alarming rate of overdose deaths in our state,” said Hassan. “Our bipartisan bill would take important steps to combat the abuse of xylazine by giving law enforcement more authority to crack down on the illicit distribution of this drug, including by putting stiffer penalties on criminals who are spreading this drug to our communities. My colleagues on both sides of the aisle are seeing the impact of this deadly drug in their states, and we will continue working together to move this critical bill forward.”

The American Veterinary Medical Association, Nevada Cattlemen Association, National Association of Police Organizations, National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition, United States Deputy Sheriff’s Association, Peace Officers Research Association of California North American Meat Institute, Animal Health Institute and the American Association of Bovine Practitioners are all backing the proposal.

Panetta’s bill was sent to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce and the Judiciary Committees.

Kevin Derby
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