Spanberger Cosponsors Urgent Legislation to Schedule Fentanyl as Schedule I Drug, Support Virginia Law Enforcement in Battle Against Opioid Crisis

The Bipartisan “SAFE Act” Would Amend the Controlled Substances Act to Permanently Classify Any Fentanyl-Related Substance as a Schedule I Drug

Last Month, the U.S. House Passed Spanberger’s Legislation to Help Curtail the Flow of Illicit Fentanyl into the United States from China & Latin America

WASHINGTON, D.C.  — U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger — a former federal law enforcement officer — today backed bipartisan legislation that would combat fentanyl distribution in Virginia by permanently scheduling all current and future fentanyl-related substances as Schedule I drugs.

According to a Pew study released earlier this year, more Americans died from overdose in 2020 than any previous year on record — and some figures indicate that 2021’s death toll may be higher. The same study showed that approximately 75 percent of all fatal overdoses in 2020 involved opioids, including more than six in 10 involving synthetic opioids — like fentanyl.

Fentanyl-related substances are currently on a temporary scheduling for Schedule I classification. However, this Schedule I classification will expire today, March 11, 2022, and will require repeated congressional extensions — barring Congress making it permanent.

The Spanberger-cosponsored Save Americans from the Fentanyl Emergency (SAFE) Act would make this Schedule I classification permanent. In doing so, the bill would make sure Virginia law enforcement departments can keep prosecuting the sale and use of these substances.

“Fentanyl has been responsible for devastation, heartbreak, and loss in far too many Virginia communities. To make sure law enforcement can keep fentanyl off our streets, we need to take the long overdue step of classifying it as a Schedule I drug — permanently,” said Spanberger. “As a former federal agent who worked narcotics cases, I understand how this deadly substance can weave its way into illicit drug networks and literally kill unsuspecting addicts. Those who distribute such a dangerous drug should be punished to the full extent of the law, and the SAFE Act would make sure justice is served.”

The bipartisan SAFE Act is led by U.S. Representatives Chris Pappas (D-NH-01), Dan Newhouse (R-WA-04), and Ted Budd (R-NC-13).

Specifically, the SAFE Act would:

  • Amend Section 202(c) of the Controlled Substances Act to permanently classify any fentanyl-related substance as a Schedule I drug unless it is already listed in another schedule or specifically exempted.
  • Define the types of compounds and molecular variations that count as an analogue of fentanyl.
  • Require the Attorney General to publish a list of substances that meet the classification of a fentanyl-related substance in the Federal Register within 60 days of determination. 
  • Allow the Secretary of HHS to contract with private entities to conduct research and evaluations into fentanyl-related substances, and create a streamlined process to facilitate research of controlled substances in Schedule I to more closely align it with the process for Schedule II research, to expand our understanding of fentanyl-related substances and other drugs. 
  • Require the GAO to issue a report within four years after enactment analyzing the effect of permanent scheduling of fentanyl analogues. The report would analyze impact on research, removal or rescheduling of analogues, manufacturing/trafficking, criminal charges, and overall efficacy on reducing proliferation of fentanyl-related substances.

Click here to read the full bill text.

BACKGROUND

Spanberger has been a vocal leader in both combatting illicit drug trafficking and supporting Virginians on the path to recovery.

Last month, the U.S. House voted to pass her legislation to help address the root causes of illegal fentanyl production, distribution, and sale originating from China and Latin America.

In August 2021, Spanberger introduced her bipartisan Support Recovery from Addiction Act, which would establish a permanent federal funding stream for treatment and recovery programs with a record of success. To bring attention to the need for these recovery services, in October 2021 Spanberger spoke on the U.S. House Floor to share the story of Summer Barrow, a Central Virginian lost due to a fentanyl overdose.

And earlier last year, Spanberger led a successful, bipartisan effort calling on the U.S. Treasury Department to allow states to use American Rescue Plan funding to combat increases in drug overdose deaths witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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