US House passes measures to address fentanyl crisis, including Schedule I classification

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. House of Representatives passed two measures this week aimed at addressing the nation’s fentanyl crisis. One of the measures, legislation to classify fentanyl-related substances alongside chemicals and drugs with high potential for abuse, was approved by Congress’s lower chamber in separate votes.

The first measure called for a study into the financing of synthetic drug trafficking, while the second measure permanently listed fentanyl-related drugs as Schedule I controlled substances. Schedule I substances are subject to strict regulations and carry substantial criminal penalties. On Tuesday, the House overwhelmingly approved a resolution requiring the Government Accountability Office to examine the financing associated with trafficking fentanyl and other synthetic drugs, including methamphetamine, and related substances.

In a Thursday vote, 74 Democrats joined the House’s Republican majority in supporting the second measure. The HALT Fentanyl Act, passed by a vote of 289-133, would categorize all fentanyl-related substances as Schedule I substances. Federal officials define Schedule I substances as drugs and chemicals with a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical purpose. Heroin, LSD, and marijuana are among the other substances listed as Schedule I.

While some fentanyl-related drugs are currently listed as Schedule I substances, they are set to be removed from the list at the end of 2024. Fentanyl itself would remain a Schedule II substance, which is categorized as a drug or chemical with a high potential for misuse and severe dependence. The measure also includes changes to federal registration criteria for researchers working with Schedule I and II substances. Registered researchers would be permitted to conduct certain manufacturing activities without obtaining separate manufacturing registration.

The votes reflect ongoing concerns regarding the rising rate of fentanyl-related overdose deaths. According to a report released earlier this month by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths involving fentanyl have more than tripled between 2016 and 2021.