Vern Buchanan Calls on House Leadership to Do More Against Fentanyl

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, D-NH, sent a letter to U.S. House leadership this week demanding action on their bill to crack down on deadly synthetic opioids. Their bipartisan Federal Initiative to Guarantee Health by Targeting (FIGHT) Fentanyl Act would permanently classify fentanyl-related substances as Schedule I drugs.

The current classification is scheduled to expire later this year.

Last month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) seized 951 pounds of fentanyl at our southern border – a 300 percent increase from May of 2020.

Authorities have already intercepted 4,241 pounds of the deadly drug this calendar year – a 365 percent increase over the same period in 2020. Furthermore, fentanyl seizures have been increasing since 2018.

Since 2018, fentanyl analogs have been classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule I substance to allow federal law enforcement authorities to bring criminal actions against individuals who manufacture, distribute or handle fentanyl-related substances. President Biden recently signed legislation to extend the classification, set to expire on May 6, 2021, through October 22, 2021. The FIGHT Fentanyl Act would make this temporary classification permanent.

On June 25th, two fentanyl dealers in Buchanan’s backyard of Manatee County were sentenced to federal prison for 11 years and 30 months respectively.

“This bill is one more tool for law enforcement to reduce the amount of illegal fentanyl on our streets and fight back against the illegal fentanyl producers, smugglers and dealers who are directly responsible for the deaths of so many Americans,” said Buchanan. “Congress should act to give law enforcement certainty and one more tool to protect our communities.”

Buchanan introduced the bipartisan legislation in May. The Buchanan-Pappas bill is a companion to bipartisan legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate by U.S. Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Joe Manchin, D-WV.

The bill has also been endorsed by Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells, Sarasota County Sheriff Kurt Hoffman, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, Florida’s Attorney General Ashley Moody and First Step of Sarasota, a leading mental health and substance abuse nonprofit.

Read the full text of the letter below.

Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy:

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed many shortcomings in our nation’s health care preparedness and response systems. Unfortunately, many of those problems fueled a resurgence of another epidemic that has been raging uncontrolled for far too long – opioid abuse and overdose deaths.

To address this continued surge in opioid related deaths, since 2018, illegal fentanyl and fentanyl analogs have been classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule I substance to allow federal law enforcement authorities greater latitude to bring criminal actions against individuals who manufacture, distribute or handle fentanyl-related substances. Unfortunately, this classification is temporary and set to expire on October 22, 2021.

For that reason, we introduced H.R. 3269, the Federal Initiative to Guarantee Health by Targeting (FIGHT) Fentanyl Act, to permanently classify fentanyl and fentanyl analogs as a Schedule I substance. With 4,241 pounds of fentanyl seized at the southern border already in 2021 – a 365 percent increase over the same period in 2020, enough to kill over 960 million people or almost three times the U.S. population – what the DEA needs most now is certainty.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that fentanyl and other synthetic opioids contributed to 36,359 deaths in 2019 – 73 percent of opioid-involved deaths – and nearly 52 percent of ALL overdose deaths that year. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated this problem by increasing risk factors like social isolation and making necessary treatment more difficult to access. As a result, these numbers increased to the highest total ever over the 12-month period ending in May 2020 with 81,230 overdose deaths – with an increase of 38 percent involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl – and, according to the CDC, could top 90,000 once the count is final for 2020.

Our legislation is bipartisan, bicameral and addresses an urgent need. We urge you to bring it to the floor for immediate consideration because we cannot sit idly by while more of our constituents’ lives are needlessly lost due to illegal fentanyl and fentanyl analog overdoses. We appreciate your attention to this critically important issue and look forward to your prompt reply.

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