The countdown is on. Today marks the beginning of the 100 days until the critical and life-saving authority placing fentanyl-related substances in Schedule I expires.
Congress has extended this authority multiple times, most recently in May. When choosing how long to extend this authority, however, Congress short-changed itself by providing only five months to contemplate how to permanently control fentanyl analogues.
I pushed for a longer extension, even spearheading bipartisan legislation that would have extended this authority to next year.
But my colleagues on the other side of the aisle insisted that five months was sufficient to work with the Administration to find a permanent solution scheduling fentanyl related substances.
I had skepticism about this when the 5-month extension passed in May, and I have even more skepticism now.
That’s because we’re only 100 days away from losing this essential authority and the Administration still hasn’t indicated how it intends to solve this problem. Congress is operating in the dark.
The Administration says that a legislative proposal will be sent to Congress as early as next month. But, this proposal won’t be a done deal once it arrives on Capitol Hill.
If it doesn’t include measures to protect vulnerable communities, prevent more drug overdose victims, and proactively deter and punish drug traffickers, then it won’t be up to snuff.
I’ve been beating the drum on scheduling fentanyl analogues for a long time because it’s a fight worth having. We simply can’t afford to let these deadly substances go unscheduled.
What happens if we don’t schedule fentanyl analogues in the next 100 days? Well, opioid-related deaths fueled by fentanyl analogues increased by 35 percent in Iowa last year, which is in line with nationwide trends. So deaths will likely continue to rise.
Also, according to Customs and Border Patrol, so far this year, enough fentanyl and its analogues have been seized to kill the entire population of the United States 10 times over.
Some may view drug crimes as victimless. Tell that to the hundreds of thousands of families who have lost a brother, sister, parent or child to fentanyl.
Tell that to Rod and Deb Courtney, the parents of Chad Courtney from North Liberty, Iowa. Chad died five years ago because of fentanyl. He used painkillers, and then turned to abusing heroin.
Rod and Deb tried to help their son through rehab and treatment. Then one day, they received the call they’d been dreading: their son died because a drug dealer laced heroin with a deadly fentanyl substance.
Rod said that one of the last memories he has with his son was picking him up from treatment, and Chad stating, “I just want to make a difference.” We owe it to Chad, and the other 36,359 victims of fentanyl-related overdose deaths to make a difference now.
Congress can ensure that we put people over profits and communities over cartels by permanently scheduling fentanyl-related substances.
I don’t doubt that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle want to protect their constituents. Nobody wants more overdose deaths in their home states. So let’s work together to put this issue to rest at last.
The countdown is on. 100 days. I hope the Administration and my Senate colleagues are ready to get to work on permanently scheduling fentanyl-related substances. I know I am.