Biden Administration Proposal on Fentanyl Faces Backlash

Biden Administration Proposal on Fentanyl Faces Backlash

Last month, the Biden Administration announced its recommendations to Congress to combat the growing number of overdoses on fentanyl-related substances in the U.S. According to the CDC, more than 93,000 people died of an overdose in 2020. Currently, the fastest growing driver of overdoses in the U.S. is synthetic fentanyl.

To slow this growth, the Biden Administration’s proposal primarily focuses on permanently placing fentanyl-related substances into Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. According to the Biden Administration’s press release, this permanent move “provides law enforcement with the tools they have said they need to respond to the trafficking and manufacture of illicitly manufactured synthetic opioids.”

According to civil-rights groups and policy organizations, these recommendations miss the mark.

But nearly 100 civil-rights groups and policy organizations have responded with a joint letter. In it, the groups and organizations call on lawmakers to oppose these recommendations. According to the letter’s authors, the Biden Administration’s proposal is inherently flawed. This is “because it leans on law enforcement, not evidence-based public health solutions, to solve the overdose epidemic.”

The Biden Administration’s own press release highlights the temporary, classwide scheduling of fentanyl-related substances in Feb. 2018. Yet overdoses on fentanyl-related substances skyrocketed last year anyway. That’s something the letter emphasized.

“The classwide scheduling of FRS has been in effect since 2018 and overdoses have nonetheless skyrocketed,” the letter explains. “In contrast to proven public-health solutions, classwide scheduling is not science based and will set a harmful precedent by endorsing preemptive and overbroad drug criminalization.”

Image courtesy of Bernard Chantal via iStock by Getty Images.

History has demonstrated that enforcement-focused strategies don’t save lives or provide safety.

The Biden Administration claims that its recommendation in these regard is part of its drug policy priorities for 2021. Those include expanding access to evidence-based prevention, treatment, hard reduction and recovery support services.

But, the letter explains, these recommendations don’t do that. “Rather,” the groups and organizations explain, “perpetuating the broad criminalization of these substances will only push people who use drugs further into the shadows where they will be more likely to encounter untested substances that increase their risk of overdose.”

Furthermore, “[c]riminalization also creates a chilling effect on people calling for emergency services, should they or someone else need them, for fear of being arrested or otherwise penalized.”

But, for now, it seems that criminalization is the direction the Biden Administration plans to go anyway.

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