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Q: How should America address its opioid crisis?

A: The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports America is experiencing an “unprecedented overdose epidemic.” Overdose deaths are claiming an average 275 lives every day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), deaths by overdose killed more than 100,000 Americans over a 12-month period, nearly a 30 percent increase from the previous year. So how has this taken a turn for the worse? The Biden administration’s open border policies are emboldening drug cartels. These criminal organizations know they can smuggle in deadly and illicit drugs with little to no consequences. Last year I visited the Rio Grande Valley where U.S. Border Patrol agents described the surge in drug trafficking. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released statistics reflecting record numbers of fentanyl and other illicit narcotics seized in 2021, more than double what was seized in 2020. More drugs than ever are coming in through our porous borders and overdose deaths continue to spike. Consider fentanyl, a synthetic opioid. The DEA says a “deadly dose of fentanyl is small enough to fit on the tip a pencil.” Fentanyl is mixed with other illicit drugs to make them more potent. It also makes them more lethal. Plus, a new threat to public health is emerging. Cartels are now making counterfeit pills containing fentanyl. These pills are manufactured in Mexico using precursor chemicals produced in China, and are often sold on social media and e-commerce platforms. Fentanyl overdose is the number one cause of death for Americans age 18-45. This is a tragic wake-up call. Americans in the prime of their lives are leaving their families, communities and workplaces behind. Pulling the plug on the Biden administration’s open border policies would be a step in the right direction. In a similar vein, we must curb the supply of fentanyl by permanently scheduling all versions of this deadly drug. I led the bipartisan effort to provide a lengthy extension of this scheduling authority and I’ve long supported making permanent the Schedule 1 classification of fentanyl-related substances under the federal Controlled Substances Act. This would put them under the umbrella of illicit drugs with high potential for abuse and no reasonable medical purpose. This would send a no nonsense signal to sellers to stop peddling this poison. Allowing fentanyl-related substances to fall off the scheduling system would effectively legalize them for sale on America’s streets and online. Getting this policy across the finish line this year is the least Congress can do to save more moms and dads in America from burying a child who died by overdose on drugs like fentanyl.

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Q: What’s up with the Biden administration’s alleged proposal to hand out crack pipes?

A: This half-baked plan met with swift backlash on Capitol Hill when Congress got wind of it. Under the umbrella of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is managing a $30 million harm reduction grant program designed to minimize risks associated with drug use, including overdoses and disease transmission. In its notice of funding opportunity, the agency listed “smoking kits” and supplies, which could include crack pipes and similar paraphernalia. The White House denies crack pipes would be paid for with taxpayer dollars. And yet, groups like the Drug Policy Alliance let the cat out of the bag, saying it would be “pointless” to distribute kits without glass pipes because the kits would not help prevent disease transmission. In all my years representing Iowans, I never thought I would need to co-sponsor a bill to prohibit tax dollars from paying for crack pipes. This week I also blasted the Department of Justice for its reported plan to deploy “safe injection sites” in local communities. There’s nothing “safe” about illicit fentanyl, meth or heroin. Having the federal government set up injection sites would send the wrong signal about drug use. Consider how injection sites are linked to increased crime and environmental hazards with discarded needles in America’s neighborhoods where they are open. The idea that our nation’s top law enforcement agency would manage “public facilities for drug users to consume illicit drugs like fentanyl, methamphetamine and heroin” exposes how out of touch the Biden administration is with the law, not to mention the court of public opinion.

Author: Charles Grassley

Chuck Grassley of New Hartford has represented Iowa in the United States Senate since 1980.

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