Spanberger Backs Bipartisan Bill to Crack Down on Tranq, Hold Drug Traffickers Accountable

DEA Has Now Found Xylazine — a Common Veterinary Tranquilizer — in Fentanyl Collected in 48 States, Including Virginia

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger — a former federal law enforcement officer — today backed a bipartisan, bicameral bill to crack down on “tranq,” xylazine-adulterated fentanyl which is contributing to fatal overdoses across the country.

Recently, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) reported that 23 percent of fentanyl powder examined in 2022 contained xylazine — an easily accessible veterinary tranquilizer that’s being used as a cheap cutting agent. Despite such alarming reports about the rise of tranq, federal, state, and local law enforcement do not currently have the tools they need to effectively track this substance or penalize traffickers who are using it to increase their profits.

“Fatal drug overdoses remain the leading cause of unnatural death in Virginia,” said Spanberger. “That’s why we need to remain vigilant about new substances that could exacerbate fentanyl’s effects and take the lives of our fellow Virginians. And right now, I’m hearing concerns about the zombie drug — tranq — from Virginia law enforcement officials, community leaders, and recovery advocates.”

The Spanberger-cosponsored Combating Illicit Xylazine Act would address the abuse of xylazine by empowering law enforcement to go after these criminals. Additionally, it would classify the illicit use of xylazine as a Schedule III substance under the Controlled Substances Act.

Spanberger continued, “Unfortunately, we haven’t seen the worst wave of death that this powerful and highly addictive drug can bring. As a former federal agent and CIA case officer who worked narcotics cases and tracked dangerous cartels, I recognize how tranq presents a unique threat to our communities. This bipartisan bill would give law enforcement at all levels more tools in their toolbox to penalize drug traffickers, protect our Virginia communities, and prevent more overdose deaths.”

Specifically, the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act would strengthen efforts against the abuse of xylazine by:

  • Classifying its illicit use under Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA); 
  • Empowering DEA to track its manufacturing to prevent it from making it 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; and
  • Declaring xylazine an emerging drug threat.

The Combating Illicit Xylazine Act is led in the U.S. House by U.S. Representatives Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-19), August Pfluger (R-TX-11), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL-12), Ken Buck (R-CO-04), and Chris Pappas (D-NH-01). In the U.S. Senate, a companion bill is led by U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH).

The bipartisan bill is endorsed by several nationwide organizations representing law enforcement officers, including: the National Fraternal Order of Police, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, Peace Officers Research Association of California, U.S. Deputy Sheriff’s Association, National Narcotic Officers Association Coalition, National Association of Police Organizations, and Major Cities Chiefs Association.

BACKGROUND

HEALTH EFFECTS: Xylazine causes depressed breathing and heart rate, unconsciousness, necrosis, and even death — and because it is not an opioid, naloxone does not reverse these effects. There are currently no xylazine reversal drugs approved for humans.

COST: Because Xylazine is not scheduled under the CSA, drug dealers and traffickers can more easily purchase it online. According to the DEA, xylazine powder can be purchased online for as little as $6 to $20 per kilogram.

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