In his second State of the Union, President Biden touched on what has been called the most serious issue the DEA has seen in decades and doubtless the country’s most pressing issue: the opioid crisis and more specifically the flood of fentanyl into the U.S.
The president spoke passionately about young lives being lost to drug addiction and fentanyl. He pledged to disrupt the trafficking, distribution and sale of fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances and praised the Customs and Border Protection for having seized 260,000 pounds of illicit drugs, including nearly 15,000 pounds of fentanyl.
At one point, a voice from the Republican section yelled out “It’s your fault,” a clear reference to what many GOP members view as Biden’s lax border policies and a Trump-era trope that connected drug trafficking with immigrants.
Biden went on to outline what he and the administration intend to do, which includes stopping more packages from being shipped into the U.S. with fentanyl and materials used to make it, noting that traffickers use small, hard-to-track packages hidden among the millions sent daily via commercial delivery companies.
Biden talked about expanding access to evidence-based prevention, harm reduction and treatment He touted the administration’s effort to change addiction treatment across the country.
But Is It Enough?
Maritza Perez Medina, director of the Office of Federal Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, replied. “We are glad to see President Biden continue to call for increased access to evidence-based treatment, harm reduction and recovery services. But, his support for harsher penalties for fentanyl-related substances, which will result in the broader application of mandatory minimum sentencing and disproportionately harm Black, Latinx and Indigenous communities, in the same breath is incredibly counterproductive and fails to recognize how we got to this place to begin with.”
Over 100,000 of our loved ones being lost to avoidable overdoses a year is not because of a lack of enforcement, it’s a direct result of it.Maritza Perez Medina, director of the Office of Federal Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance
Perez Medina noted that by urging Congress to schedule all fentanyl-related substances on Schedule I without fully testing and researching them, the president is creating conditions for a riskier drug market and thereby backtracking on his commitment to criminal justice reform and finding therapeutic treatments to address the overdose epidemic.
“Instead of more punitive policies, it’s time we embrace science and public health measures, such as Senator Booker’s TEST Act, which would require the federal government to begin testing and researching these substances, report their findings, and remove any from the drug schedules that are found to be harmless,” said Perez Medina.
“Bottom line, it’s impossible to save lives if we don’t even know what’s in the drug supply or have the knowledge and tools to reverse it.”
This article was originally published2 on Benzinga and appears here with permission.