Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has joined a bipartisan coalition of 52 state and territory attorneys general to call on Congress 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.
Since 2009, Virginia has seen fentanyl overdose deaths increase by 1,337 percent.
“I remain committed to combatting the opioid crisis that is affecting communities across the Commonwealth and the country,” said Attorney General Herring. “Fentanyl has become the biggest driver of the rise in overdose deaths in Virginia and far too many Virginians are still losing their lives and loved ones to this dangerous drug. Fentanyl can be deadly in microscopic doses, which makes it a threat to law enforcement and first responders who are investigating or trying to treat an overdose. It’s also indistinguishable from heroin and other opioids, meaning that a user can suffer a fatal overdose on any use without even realizing what they are taking. We need to make it as hard as we can for criminals and drug dealers to get their hands on this deadly drug, which is why I am urging Congress to close this loophole.”
Attorney General Herring sent a letter to Congress in support of S. 1553 and H.R. 4922, Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues (SOFA) Act. Fentanyl is currently a Schedule II controlled substance. However, outside of careful supervision, fentanyl and analogues manufactured illicitly can be lethal.
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.
Fentanyl is a particularly dangerous drug because even the smallest of doses can be fatal and, in many cases, it is indistinguishable from heroin. It can be hundreds of times more powerful than morphine and much more powerful than heroin. In Virginia alone, 2,182 people have died from a fentanyl overdoes since 2007.
Additionally, cartels have begun to import chemicals from China to create their own homemade batches of fentanyl that they then sell on the streets. Importing these chemicals from China has made it even more difficult for law enforcement officials to crack down on the drugs because of complicating factors like Chinese chemical control laws, import laws, and the dark web where people can easily buy and sell the ingredients needed to make these drugs.