Washington, D.C. – The House of Representatives today approved by a vote of 239-142 a bill to combat the synthetic drug crisis, the Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues Act (H.R. 2851). House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) applauded today’s House approval of the bill in the statement below.

Chairman Goodlatte: “Our nation is facing a drug crisis and it’s destroying lives, families, and communities across the United States. While Congress has taken action to combat the opioid epidemic through the historic Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, it’s clear that we need more tools to combat the ever-growing problem of synthetic drug abuse. These chemically-altered drugs can be just as dangerous and often more deadly than the original drug and current law makes it difficult to get them under control quickly.

“Today, the House has taken action to address this national crisis by passing the Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues Act. This legislation provides a rigorous and timely process to get these deadly substances out of the hands of drug traffickers and off the streets. It closes a dangerous loophole by ensuring our laws keep pace with the creation of new, chemically-altered drugs and by providing law enforcement with the tools needed to protect our communities. I thank Congressman Katko for introducing this bill and call on the Senate to pass it without delay.”

Background on the Synthetic Drug Crisis: In 2016, over 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses. More than 20 percent of these deaths resulted from an overdose of synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which can be as much as 100 times more powerful than painkillers like morphine. Criminal drug manufacturers, largely from China and Mexico, work continuously to stay ahead of U.S. drug laws by altering the molecular structure of their drugs as soon as the U.S. government bans them. The Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which was signed into law over 40 years ago, was designed to protect the public from the dangers associated with drugs and drug use. However, the CSA was not designed to handle the magnitude and speed with which these new drugs have emerged in our communities. It currently takes three years to schedule a drug, but criminals can skirt the law by quickly changing one molecule in a drug and get it to U.S. streets. The resulting chemically-altered drug is just as dangerous, and often even more so.

Summary of the Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues Act: This bipartisan, bicameral bill – introduced by Representative John Katko (R-N.Y.) – updates the CSA to provide swifter action to stop the unlawful importation and distribution of synthetic drugs. Instead of taking three years to bring a drug under control, the Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues Act gives the Attorney General the power to quickly and temporarily schedule a new dangerous drug in a matter of months when it is virtually identical to a currently scheduled drug. The bill also requires the Attorney General to work with the Department of Health and Human Services so that the synthetic drugs can be studied by qualified researchers studying addiction and developing the latest cures for serious illnesses.

Supporters of H.R. 2851 include the National Association of Police Organizations, the National Fraternal Order of Police, the National District Attorneys Association, and the American College of Emergency Physicians.