Saturday, June 17, 2017

Bill would expand attorney general’s power in drug war

WASHINGTON — Congress is considering a bill that would expand the federal government’s ability to pursue the war on drugs, granting new power to the attorney general to set federal drug policy.

The bipartisan legislation, sponsored by powerful committee leaders in both chambers of Congress, would allow the attorney general to unilaterally outlaw certain unregulated chemical compounds on a temporary basis.

It would create a special legal category for these drugs, the first time in nearly 50 years that the Controlled Substances Act has been expanded in this way. And it would set penalties, potentially including mandatory minimum sentences, for the manufacture and distribution of these drugs.

‘‘This bill provides federal law enforcement with new tools to ensure those peddling dangerous drugs, which can be lethal, are brought to justice,’’ said Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, who is sponsoring the Senate version with Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa.

‘‘It also explicitly exempts simple possession from any penalties, instead targeting those who manufacture and traffic these drugs and opioids,’’ Feinstein said.

The bill, introduced last week, now moves to a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Grassley chairs and where Feinstein is the top-ranking Democrat.

Under current law, all psychoactive substances are placed in one of five ‘‘schedules’’ designating the drugs’ risk of abuse and medical potential. Schedule 1 is the most restrictive, reserved for drugs like LSD, heroin and marijuana. Schedule 5 is the least restrictive category, which includes medications like low-dose codeine cough syrup.

Illicit-drug manufacturers wishing to avoid these designations often make subtle changes to a drug’s chemistry, creating slightly different, and hence legal, substances which produce similar psychoactive effects in users.

‘‘Illegal drug traffickers and importers are able to circumvent the existing scheduling regime by altering a single atom or molecule of a currently controlled substance in a laboratory, thereby creating a substance that is lawful, but often highly dangerous, addictive and even deadly,’’ said Feinstein and Grassley in a fact sheet about the Senate bill.

The law would create a new schedule, Schedule A, for substances that are chemically similar to already-regulated drugs. The attorney general would be able to place new compounds in Schedule A for a period of up to five years. Critics say this amounts to giving the attorney general the power to unilaterally write federal drug policy.

The bill ‘‘gives the attorney general a ton of power in terms of scheduling drugs and pursuing penalties,’’ said Michael Collins of the Drug Policy Alliance, a drug policy reform group. ‘‘This is a giant step backwards and really it’s doing the bidding of Jeff Sessions as he tries to escalate the war on drugs.’’

Under current policy, an attorney general may only temporarily schedule a substance for up to two years, and only then after demonstrating the drug’s ‘‘history and current pattern of abuse; the scope, duration and significance of abuse; and what, if any, risk there is to the public health.’’

The new bill extends the temporary scheduling duration to five years for Schedule A substances, and eliminates the requirement for analyzing the drug’s abuse record and its potential risk to public health.


You've got to be shitting me. This bill is bull. Straight up bullshit. Let's contact Our Congressional Representative and Senators and tell them that we are less than thrilled with this bill and we want them to oppose it.

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