Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, as part of a bipartisan group of 52 state and territory attorneys general, called on Congress today to help end the opioid epidemic and close a loophole that allows those who traffic deadly fentanyl to stay a step ahead of law enforcement.
In a letter to Congress, the attorneys general announce their collective support of S. 1553 and H.R. 4922, Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues (SOFA) Act. Fentanyl is currently a Schedule II controlled substance and when used as prescribed by a doctor, can be a safe painkiller. However outside of careful supervision, fentanyl and analogues manufactured illicitly can be lethal.
The fentanyl derivatives not only allow makers and dealers to elude law enforcement; they blindside public health authorities and make addiction even riskier. 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.
In Rhode Island, as law enforcement began to see an increase in fentanyl analogues being trafficked in our communities resulting in fatal overdoses, Attorney General Kilmartin filed legislation that became law in 2017 that placed fentanyl analogues and compounds of synthetic opioids on the Schedule I and Schedule II lists of Controlled Substances.
"As we saw with manufacturers of bath salts a few years ago, manufacturers of fentanyl analogues and synthetic opioids tweak the molecular structure of the drug to evade the list of controlled substance and avoid prosecution," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "Just as we did in Rhode Island, the SOFA Act takes the same approach by adding all known chemical compounds to the list of controlled substances, allowing law enforcement to stay one step ahead of the drug manufacturers and traffickers. This action will immediately get these dangerous and deadly products off our streets and give our law enforcement personnel the tools they need to effectively pursue those who illegally sell and distribute the product."
The SOFA Act, if passed by the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, would eliminate the current loophole which keeps the controlled substance scheduling system one step behind those who manufacture fentanyl analogue and then introduce these powders into the opioid supply. The SOFA Act utilizes catch-all language which will allow the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to proactively schedule all newly-modified fentanyl analogues.
In addition to efforts to address the opioid crisis in Rhode Island, Attorney General Kilmartin has been a leading voice nationally advocating for stronger laws against those who traffic in illegal substances and providing for greater resources to those struggling with substance use disorders.
In 2015, Attorney General Kilmartin led a group of attorneys general in urging passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). The Act, which was enacted in 2016, expanded alcohol and drug prevention and education, expanded the availability of Narcan, increased collaboration with law enforcement and criminal justice systems, created more disposal and turn-in sites for unwanted prescription medications, increased availability of treatment including evidence-based and medication-assisted programs, and created prescription drug monitoring programs. In addition, it provided funding for specialized courts that confront substance abuse and addiction issues including the Veterans Court and Drug Court, two programs supported by the Rhode Island Office of Attorney General.
A copy of the letter is available at http://www.riag.ri.gov/documents/SOFAACT.pdf