The following is a press release from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office
BOSTON- Today, August 23, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey joined a bipartisan coalition of 52 state and territory attorneys general in calling on Congress to close a federal loophole that allows fentanyl traffickers to stay a step ahead of law enforcement.
The attorneys general today sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in support of S. 1553 and H.R. 4922, Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues (SOFA) Act. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is estimated to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin. It is currently classified at the federal level as a Schedule II controlled substance.
“Drug traffickers regularly create fentanyl analogues that pose a deadly threat to people across this state and the country,” said Attorney General Healey. “As attorney general, I see the devastation of fentanyl in our communities every day. I urge Congress to close this dangerous loophole immediately.”
The SOFA Act eliminates the current loophole which keeps the controlled substance scheduling system one step behind criminals who manufacture fentanyl analogues and then introduce these powders into the opioid supply.
“The SOFA Act unplugs the entire fentanyl machine in the first instance by making fentanyl analogues illegal as soon they are manufactured, which occurs most often abroad in countries without adequate controls,” the attorneys general write. The SOFA Act utilizes catch-all language which will proactively schedule all newly-modified fentanyl analogues.
Specifically, the legislation amends the Controlled Substances Act to add certain fentanyl analogues as Schedule I controlled substances. Additionally, any material with any quantity of a fentanyl analogue, or a substance chemically similar to a known fentanyl analogue, would be classified under Schedule I. A Schedule I controlled substance is a drug, substance, or chemical that: has a high potential for abuse; has no currently accepted medical value; and is subject to regulatory controls and administrative, civil, and criminal penalties under the Controlled Substances Act.
A copy of the letter is available here.
In 2017, there were more than 2,000 opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts. When available, 85 percent of toxicology screens tested positive for fentanyl.
Under state law, analogues are treated like similarly classified substances and in the 2018 criminal justice reform bill, the Massachusetts Legislature revised Class A of the state Controlled Substances Act to include compounds containing quantities of fentanyl, carfentanil and other fentanyl-like substances.
Healey filed and advocated for state legislation criminalizing the trafficking of fentanyl that was passed into law in Feb. 2016. Before the law was passed, drug traffickers could only be charged with the lesser crimes of manufacturing, distributing or possessing fentanyl, regardless of the quantity of the drug they were caught with.