New bill seeks harsher penalties for synthetic opioids

New legislation drafted by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., would impose stiffer penalties for individuals caught with synthetic opioids, according to a report from NPR.

While both senators have supported cutbacks in punitive repercussions for drug users in the past, the new bill specifically pertains to synthetic drugs. The bill would institute a ban on a litany of synthetics as drug dealers often change the components of their drug combinations to evade legal consequences. The legislation would also allow for a 10-year maximum sentence for individuals caught selling synthetic substances for the first time. The potential maximum would then double upon a second conviction, according to the report.

"These synthetic drugs are added to heroin often outside the U.S., but the bill takes such a broad approach that it's penalizing individuals who sell drugs at a low level inside the U.S., and so it's going to do nothing to deter and stop the supply of drugs," said Michael Collins of the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group that favors lighter punishments and treatment for drug offenders, according to NPR. "The problem is really we've been here before with this approach in terms of the war on drugs and ramping up sentences, and we know that escalating sentences ... does nothing to help the opioid epidemic. In fact, it only serves to increase the prison population."

As lethal synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which is 50-times more potent than morphine, and carfentanil, which is 100-times more potent than fentanyl, continue to drive surges in drug overdoses across the country, the issue has piqued the interest at the highest levels of the Justice Department.

Speaking at the Drug Enforcement Administration on Wednesday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said the nation doesn't have time argue whether the opioid epidemic is a public health crisis or a law enforcement problem, according to NPR.

"There's a horrifying surge in drug overdoses in the United States of America," Mr. Rosenstein said. "Some people say we should be more permissive, more tolerant, more understanding about drug abuse. I say we should be more honest."

More articles on opioids: 
Dayton mayor files suit against physicians, drugmakers and drug distributers for role in Ohio opioid crisis 
Mystery opioid linked to dozens of overdoses, 4 deaths in Georgia 
20% of weight-loss surgery patients still on opioids 7 years after surgery

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