Designation will allow for law enforcement to charge and prosecute those trafficking in the deadly drugs
Attorney General to file legislation to ban compound classes of synthetic opioids and fentanyl analogs
In response to new forms of opiates hitting the streets in Rhode Island, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin has called on the Rhode Island Department of Health to immediately add certain chemical analogs to the Uniformed Controlled Substances Act.
In recent investigations of illegal drug use and sales, law enforcement has come across new forms of opiates in the hands of drug traffickers and those suffering from substance use disorders. Those substances are fentanyl analogs and synthetic opioids. These substances are much stronger than their counterparts and lead to a much greater chance of overdose and are less responsive to overdose reversal treatments.
"Unfortunately, Rhode Island continues to be one of the leaders in the nation in marijuana and illicit drug use. Even more disturbing, we have been in the eye of the storm of heroin, fentanyl and prescription opiate overdoses. While the State, namely your Department, has made great strides in providing naloxone, increasing recovery coaches in our emergency rooms, and expanding medical assisted treatment programs, the crisis continues to increase in complexity," wrote Attorney General Kilmartin in the letter.
Citing the imminent and severe hazard to the health, safety and welfare of Rhode Island citizens, Attorney General Kilmartin believes one of the most effective means of curtailing abuse of a substance is to designate it as a controlled substance under law and provide penalties for persons who manufacture, distribute, sell or possess the controlled substance.
Under the Rhode Island Uniform Controlled Substances Act, section 21-28-2.01, the Department of Health Director has, pursuant to the procedures of chapter 35 of title 42, the Administrative Procedures Act, the authority to add, reschedule, or delete a substance as a controlled substance. In making this determination, the Director shall consider, but not be limited to the actual or relative potential for abuse; scientific evidence of its pharmacological effect if known; state of current scientific knowledge regarding the substance; its history and current pattern of abuse; the scope, duration, and significance of abuse; what, if any, risk there is to the public health; its psychic or physiological dependence liability; and whether the substance is an immediate precursor of a substance already controlled under this chapter.
Section (2)(C) of this section gives the Director authority to control any substance if it is controlled under federal law.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") has invoked its "emergency scheduling authority" to control some of these substances. Most recently, the DEA Administrator issued a final order on November 29, 2016 to temporarily schedule Furanyl Fentanyl, N-(1-phenethylpiperidin-4-yl)-N-phenylfuran-2-carboxamide, to schedule I. Beta-hydroxythiofentanyl and Butyryl Fentanyl were placed in Schedule I in a similar manner on May 12, 2016. Acetyl Fentanyl, N-(1-phenethylpiperidin-4-yl)-N-phenylacetamide, was scheduled in a similar manner on July 17, 2015. Alpha-methylthiofentanyl was permanently placed in the Federal schedule I in the late 1980's. Carfentanil was permanently placed in the federal Schedule II in 1988. In regards to synthetic opioids, AH-7921 was placed in the federal Schedule I on May 16, 2016 and U-4770 was placed in the federal Schedule I on November 14, 2016.
Recognizing that those who manufacture and traffic in these deadly new forms of opioids and fentanyl have easily altered the chemical properties to skirt existing laws, Attorney General Kilmartin is expected to file legislation with the General Assembly adding approximately 18 known chemical compounds of these new drugs to the Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 lists of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, thereby making them illegal to possess, sell and manufacture.
In addition, he is working with individuals in the medical and substance abuse communities to identify an umbrella of possible compounds and classifications for fentanyl analogs and synthetic opioids for addition to the General Laws. This is a similar approach the Attorney General took in targeting bath salts compounds a few years ago.
"I am hopeful the General Assembly will take swift action on this matter during this legislative session, once introduced. It is vital we all focus on this emerging threat and take immediate steps to curtail its spread any further," concluded Kilmartin.