Washington Examiner Highlights Portman’s Efforts to Permanently Criminalize Fentanyl-Related Substances

January 24, 2020 | Portman Difference

A new Washington Examiner story highlights Senator Portman’s legislative efforts to permanently criminalize fentanyl-related substances before the current scheduling order expires on February 6, 2020. Last year, Senator Portman (R-OH) introduced the bipartisan Federal Initiative to Guarantee Health by Targeting (FIGHT) Fentanyl Act, which will permanently schedule illicitly manufactured and deadly fentanyl. In February 2018, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a temporary scheduling order to schedule fentanyl-related substances that has allowed federal law enforcement authorities to bring criminal actions against individuals who manufacture, distribute, or handle fentanyl-related substances. The FIGHT Fentanyl Act codifies DEA precedent to permanently schedule fentanyl-related substances. The legislation has been endorsed by all of the state and territorial Attorneys General, including Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. Recently, in part because of Portman’s efforts to push the issue, the Senate passed legislation to extend the temporary scheduling order until May 6, 2021 and require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study on the implications of class-wide scheduling. Portman has urged his colleagues to pass his legislation in order to make the scheduling permanent.

The full story can be viewed here and excerpts are below:

Rob Portman Tries to Crack Down on Fentanyl Copycats

by Cassidy Morrison

Washington Examiner

January 23, 2020

Rob Portman wants to tackle copycats of fentanyl, permanently classifying them as some of the most dangerous drugs out there, a reform he thinks would crack down on drug trafficking and help prevent overdose deaths. The Ohio senator, a Republican, is trying to give the Drug Enforcement Administration the authority to classify, in a lasting way, drugs that are almost chemically identical to fentanyl but much deadlier. For now, the agency can criminalize these drugs, called fentanyl analogs, for short durations of time until Congress renews a temporary order.

“Permanent scheduling has to happen,” Portman told the Washington Examiner. “There’s an opportunity for the DEA to do more in terms of scheduling, to avoid Congress having to go through this issue of scheduling something that so clearly should be illegal and is dangerous.” Unless the House approves the reauthorization recently passed by the Senate, the current temporary scheduling order, first enacted in February 2018, will expire Feb. 6. Portman says renewing the temporary measure isn’t enough. “This is a short-term extension, and then we’ll have to grapple with it in 15 months or so,” he said. Portman wants fentanyl analogs to be classified as Schedule I drugs, which also include heroin, LSD, marijuana, and ecstasy.

“I had the opportunity to speak with the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio for trying to keep this poison out of our communities,” Portman said. “If these analogs come off the schedule, it’ll be impossible to stop them.” Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Justin Herdman is not endorsing Portman’s bill in particular, but he supports enacting a permanent ban on all substances similar to fentanyl.

A permanent ban would be even better, sending “a message to illicit manufacturers that the U.S. will take this seriously.” “Since this [temporary] ban has been in place, we have seen fewer and fewer novel analogs, those that appear so suddenly that we have to develop new testing methods for them,” Herdman said. “Manufacturers don’t have the incentive to create new, molecularly different ones because we’ve already banned them with this prohibition.” The only people legally permitted to manipulate the makeup of fentanyl are medical researchers, and Portman’s bill wouldn’t prohibit researchers from trying to find new uses for fentanyl and other opioids.

However, Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s health research group, said people “don’t need new opioids.” “We already have on the market legal opioid products approved by the FDA for treating severe pain,” he told the Washington Examiner. “It doesn’t appear there’s a need for more.” Portman’s bill would not prohibit the creation of new opioids or take prescription fentanyl drugs off the market. Still, it would allow the DEA to crack down on the illicit trafficking of fentanyl and help bring more traffickers to justice. The FIGHT Fentanyl Act has bipartisan support in the Senate, as well as backing from 56 state and territorial attorneys general. It has not gone to the full floor for a vote, though.