Attorney General Andy Beshear is calling on federal lawmakers to close a loophole that allows those who traffic deadly fentanyl analogues to stay one step ahead of law enforcement.
In a letter sent to House and Senate leadership, Beshear, along with a bipartisan group of 52 state and territory attorneys general, called on Congress to pass the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues (SOFA) Act. S.1553 and H.R. 4922 would allow the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to proactively identify and schedule new fentanyl variants.
“In Kentucky and nationwide, overdose deaths related to fentanyl now surpass deaths related to heroin and this legislation must be passed for law enforcement to effectively combat those driving the illicit production and distribution of deadly fentanyl variants,” said Beshear. “Closing this loophole will make it easier to prosecute crimes involving synthetic opioids and will save lives.”
According to a July report released by the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, fatal overdoses in Kentucky totaled 1,565 in 2017, which was an 11.5 percent increase over the previous year. Fentanyl was a factor in approximately 763 deaths and 52 percent of the toxicology cases.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is used to treat late-stage cancer patients. Once a small piece of the chemical structure of fentanyl is modified, the new compound falls into a legal gap.
The SOFA act will close this gap by adding known fentanyl analogues to the Schedule I list and provide the DEA the authority to immediately schedule new fentanyl analogues as they are discovered, making enforcement and scheduling procedures more proactive.
Since taking office, Beshear has been working to hold opioid manufacturers and distributors accountable and to find workable solutions to the drug epidemic.
Beshear supported legislation that amended the state’s drug laws to create penalties for dealers of fentanyl, carfentanil and other designer drugs. The legislation also created a broader definition to address fentanyl and similar powerful synthetic opioids, both known and unknown, by creating a new class definition for known fentanyl derivatives in Kentucky.
Beshear’s Drug Diversion Unit investigators were instrumental in numerous drug related arrests, including working with federal authorities to arrest a fentanyl dealer whose drugs killed several Kentuckians.
Beshear has filed lawsuits against seven opioid manufacturers or distributors for their unfair, misleading and deceptive business practices in fueling Kentucky’s drug epidemic.
Beshear said that while he is working to haul these companies into a Kentucky court, he has asked state agencies to do their part to stop the flow of state taxpayer dollars into these companies’ coffers.
Beshear’s office also works to combat illegal drug use and abuse in Kentucky communities. Investigators from the Office of the Attorney General are assigned to the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (HIDTA). The Appalachia HIDTA consists of counties in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
Beshear launched the Kentucky Opioid Disposal Program, the state’s first initiative to allow Kentuckians to safely dispose of opioid medications at home. In total, the program has the potential to dispose of more than 2.2 million unused opioids.
Beshear said that preventing opioids from getting to the hands of those that may abuse them can help to reduce the nearly 80 percent of heroin users who begin their addiction with prescription drugs.