This Thursday, September 2, the Biden administration sent Congress a proposal to permanently include fentanyl and its derivatives on the DEA’s list of banned substances while calling for reduced or repealed penalties for those who traffic it in ‘small quantities,’ Fox News reported.
During former President Donald Trump’s administration in 2018, all fentanyl-derived drugs (FRS) were temporarily placed on Schedule I by the DEA, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
According to the DEA’s own website, substances in this schedule have no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse.
Some examples of substances listed in Schedule I are: heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), peyote, methaqualone, and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (“Ecstasy.”
According to Reuters, including these dangerous substances on the DEA’s list helps prosecutors keep pace with criminals who consistently produce chemically modified fentanyl analogs to circumvent strict Schedule I regulations.
The new National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) proposal, which was the result of joint work between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), would permanently place all fentanyl derivatives within the DEA’s list of banned substances but with some important modifications.
“We are pleased to present to Congress a long-term, consensus approach that advances efforts to reduce the supply and availability of illicitly manufactured FRS, while protecting civil rights, and reducing barriers to scientific research for all schedule I substances,” said ONDCP acting Director Regina LaBelle.
LaBelle added, “The proposal would exclude those FRS that are scheduled by class from certain quantity-based mandatory minimum penalties normally associated with domestic trafficking, and import and export offenses of CSA schedule I compounds.”
“It would further ensure that a federal court can vacate or reduce the sentence of an individual convicted of an offense involving an individual FRS that is subsequently removed or rescheduled from schedule I,” the official said.
In other words, the proposal also seeks not to criminalize trafficking in fentanyl derivatives as long as the amount is considered for self-consumption or ‘domestic trafficking.’
Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) criticized the proposal harshly:
“Fentanyl analogues kill thousands of Americans each year. To protect our communities from the dealers pushing this poison, President Biden needs to keep them off the streets, not let them off the hook.”
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, while admitting that the measure has benefits for fighting the fentanyl scourge, adamantly rejected the portion decriminalizing trafficking.
“While the plan provides some greater certainty on how deadly fentanyl-like substances will be controlled, it appears that the Biden Administration cares more about avoiding new penalties than holding drug traffickers accountable for fueling an opioid epidemic that continues to destroy families and erode communities across the country,” the senator told Fox News.
Regarding the second section of LaBelle’s statement to ‘reduce barriers to scientific research’ seems to refer to the possibility of access to certain fentanyl derivatives for scientific study, that is, to analyze whether they have any medical benefit, an aspect that had generated debate at the time the total ban on FRSs was established.
Cases in which the trafficking of an FRS has caused bodily harm or death will not be exempt from prosecution, the ONDCP official said.
The role of the CCP in the fentanyl crisis in the U.S.
According to the Daily Caller, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that 73% of opioid deaths in 2019 resulted from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.
The agency also says synthetic opioid-related deaths increased 15% from 2018 to 2019. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid originating largely in China that is many times more potent than heroin, so potent that just two milligrams are enough to cause a fatal overdose in an adult male.
In April of this year alone, there was a 233% increase in fentanyl seizures at the southern border, according to data released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Manufacturers and traffickers of this synthetic drug, produced in China and trafficked to the United States, have been modifying their tactics to stay alive.
According to The Hill, Chinese traffickers use “various strategies to circumvent the new regulations,” such as manufacturing precursors, moving manufacturing to India, and using marketing schemes to avoid detection.
The DEA claims that traffickers have primarily exported precursors to Mexican cartels, using these products for manufacturing illicit fentanyl.
According to statements by a former DEA agent, the Chinese Communist Party is behind the trafficking of fentanyl from China to the United States.
“They are not dropping bombs or putting armies on the ground in America, but they’re still killing Americans at record levels,” said Derek Maltz, former head of the DEA’s Special Operations Division.
Maltz explains how the CCP circumvents controls by using money laundering schemes through the Chinese financial system:
“China has brokers sitting in Mexico with drug kingpins, and they’re making deals to pick up money all over America. The money is moved from one Chinese bank to another overseas, and then they’re fulfilling legitimate consumer goods orders to be shipped to South America, Central America, and Mexico.”