Escalating Drama: House Democrats Vote Against Legislation That Would Permanently Classify Fentanyl As Schedule 1 Drug

Credit: Fox News

Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday voted against legislation that would permanently classify fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances (FRS) as Schedule 1 drugs. Schedule 1 drugs carry the harshest penalties for trafficking and possession.

Fentanyl is a growing and pervasive problem in the United States. Republicans say that we should treat fentanyl and FRS as Schedule 1 substances in hopes that they will boost penalties and stop their spread.

In 2018, the Trump Administration temporarily scheduled FRS as a Schedule 1 drug because of the growing number of fentanyl-related deaths. Congress extended that temporary status a few times since then.

Fox News shared:

House Republicans argue that it’s time to permanently reclassify fentanyl and FRS, and they called up a bill to do so in the Energy and Commerce health subcommittee on Wednesday to stop what several Republicans called the poisoning of tens of thousands of American citizens.

The subcommittee approved the bill in a 17-10 vote in which every Democrat voted against it except for Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn. Other Democrats rejected the bill after arguing that the change should be coupled with an end to mandatory minimum sentences for FRS charges.

Specifically, Democrats said FRS cases that don’t lead to death or serious bodily harm should not carry mandatory minimum sentences, and they broadly argued that Republicans need to treat the matter more like a health crisis and less like a criminal crisis.

“Mandatory minimums should take into account whether the cases involve overdoses or serious bodily harm,” said Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.

The ACLU and Human Rights Watch argue that putting tough penalties on fentanyl would “exacerbate pretrial detention, mass incarceration and racial disparities in the prison system, doubling down on a fear-based, enforcement-first response to a public health challenge.”

However, law enforcement groups have called for tougher policies and penalties. In 2021, the National Fraternal Order of Poice called on the government to address the “growing illicit fentanyl overdose epidemic that has gripped this country.”

Republicans said on Wednesday that the deaths of too many people due to fentanyl means that Congress must take immediate action to ensure tough penalities against it. The government attributed 106,000 fentanyl-related deaths in 2021, and Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), one of the sponsors of teh bill said that fentanyl and FRS have become “weapons of mass destruction.”

“This should not be a political issue,” Latta said. “It’s about addressing the largest poisoning of Americans in the history of our country and taking steps to end the scourge.”

Fox News also shared:

Republicans also rejected the idea from Democrats that tough fentanyl penalties are creating unfair sentences. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, said the growing number of fentanyl deaths of Americans is “murder at this point,” and Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., said that making fentanyl and FRS riskier to bring into the country will both reduce the deaths and lower the number of fentanyl sentences.

The point is you can’t die from ingesting something that was never created, nor can you be incarcerated for selling something that doesn’t exist,” he said.

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