This week U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Temporary Emergency Scheduling and Testing of Fentanyl Analogues (TEST) Act, which was immediately welcomed by civil rights organizations and policy experts, reported the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).
The proposed legislation would ask the federal government to test fentanyl-related substances (FRS), which are classified as Schedule 1 substances, and for the Attorney General to remove those that are not dangerous.
The bill requests that the Attorney General reclassify any FRS that has a lower “potential for abuse” than other substances in Schedules 1 and 2.
“Temporary scheduling alone is a failed experiment that hasn’t curbed the devastation the opioid crisis has brought on countless families in the United States. So it isn’t enough to just extend the class-wide scheduling of fentanyl analogs again and hope for a different result,” said Booker. “Temporary scheduling has also preemptively criminalized potentially life-saving antidotes to fentanyl overdoses and impeded the medical, research, and scientific community’s ability to develop the solutions we need to effectively tackle this crisis.
“A better approach driven by data, science, and medicine will save lives. My common-sense legislation supported by a broad spectrum of groups working to end the opioid crisis will extend temporary scheduling for two years while also requiring the same scientific evaluation of fentanyl analogs as other controlled substances, so we can understand their pharmacological effect and open up new, promising avenues to developing therapies that can combat addiction and the devastation it causes,” Booker continued.
Maria Perez, director of the Office of Federal Affairs at the DPA, explained that “designating a class of substances as Schedule I before testing those substances for harm is unprecedented. Without testing, the federal government can unilaterally impose restrictions on any substance it wants, regardless of whether or not it is actually harmful, leading to unjust criminal convictions and impeding research into potentially life-saving treatments,” she said.
“Sen. Booker’s TEST Act is a necessary step for our country to address the overdose epidemic with science and compassion instead of fear and stigma,” Perez added.
The bill is a response to the largest overdose epidemic ever experienced in the United States, which is why it prioritizes saving lives instead of criminal punishment.
Some important measures in the legislation include:
In June, Booker led a bicameral group of lawmakers in asking the Biden Administration for information related to scientific evaluations conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on fentanyl analogs. The letter raised concerns over the Biden Administration’s proposal to make the current temporary classwide scheduling of FRS permanent without proper scientific evaluation.
In a letter to AG Merrick Garland, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and DEA administrator Anne Millgram, lawmakers said that “permanent classwide scheduling would absolve the government of its statutory responsibility to determine a substance’s potential for abuse or accepted medical use before placing it in a category of controlled substances.” The proposal would also “create a system in which some individuals may be prosecuted and sentenced to prison for substances that turn out to be harmless, which invariably will disproportionately impact people of color.”
Photo: Benzinga Edit; Sources: Wikimedia Commons and Tamanna Rumee on Unsplash
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