Hoeven Unveils Legislation to Combat Opioid Epidemic at Law Enforcement Roundtable
Measure Closes Loophole Allowing Synthetic Drug Variations to Be Sold When Labeled “Not For Human Consumption”
MANDAN, N.D. – At a roundtable he hosted with federal, state and local law enforcement in Mandan, Senator John Hoeven today unveiled legislation he authored to keep harmful and addictive synthetic drugs from being sold in the United States. The Illegal Synthetic Drug Safety Act of 2016, which Hoeven recently introduced with Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) and has been endorsed by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, closes a loophole in current law that enables companies to circumvent the law and sell synthetic variations of drugs, like the powerful drug fentanyl, by labeling the products as “not for human consumption.”
“Communities and families across the nation, and in my home state of North Dakota, are being hit hard by the growing drug epidemic,” said Hoeven. “This legislation is part of our efforts to combat this problem and keep harmful opioids and synthetic drugs off the street. The bill closes a loophole and makes synthetic variations of harmful drugs, like fentanyl, illegal.”
Laboratories, many of which are found in China, are altering the molecular structure of fentanyl and other controlled drugs to make substances that are technically different, but with the same dangerous risks as the original drug. These chemically altered substances are known as analogues. Under the current law, the Analogue Enforcement Act, analogues of controlled substances that are “intended for human consumption” are to be considered Schedule I substances. Companies that produce analogue substances are skirting the law by labeling their products as “not for human consumption,” even though the drugs are purchased for that exact purpose.
For example, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid drug that is medically used as a pain killer. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) estimates that it is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. While fentanyl is a controlled substance, laboratories are altering its molecular structure to make variations of the drug that are technically different, but just as dangerous. Companies are then able to sell the variations, or analogues, under a “not for human consumption” label.
The Illegal Synthetic Drug Safety Act of 2016 closes that loophole and removes the “intended for human consumption” language from the Analogue Enforcement Act, which classifies analogues of controlled substances as Schedule I substances. Chemical substances used for legitimate commercial purposes and regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act are exempted from the classification.
In addition, Hoeven supported the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which Congress passed in July. The bipartisan legislation will help combat the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic plaguing communities across the nation by expanding prevention efforts, supporting law enforcement, improving treatment of overdoses and enhancing access to treatment for drug addiction.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hoeven also works to support local law enforcement’s efforts to protect communities and prevent crime. The senator secured funding in the Senate’s Fiscal Year 2017 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations bill for programs that help reduce recidivism and enhance coordination among various levels of law enforcement.
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