The Republican-controlled House of Representatives, with the support of more than 70 Democrats, has passed legislation that would classify fentanyl analogs permanently as Schedule I drugs. The bill also includes mandatory-minimum prison sentences for those found guilty of distributing the substances. Critics warn that the approach is a return to failed strategies of the drug war. Matt Sutton, Director of Public Relation of Drug Policy Alliance, notes that Biden campaigned on ending mandatory minimums, but the HALT Act does the opposite. Laura Pitter of Human Rights Watch says the vote is a recollection of the failed drug war. Meanwhile, Rep. Frank Pallone warns that the measure represents an attempt to “incarcerate our way out of a public health crisis.”
Rep. Thomas Massie, the only Republican who voted against the legislation, believes that mandatory minimum sentences are unwise, and that the focus should be on regaining operational control of the border. The HALT Fentanyl Act seeks to repeat a policy first enacted by the Trump administration, which temporarily classified fentanyl-related substances as Schedule I drugs. Fentanyl itself is classified as a Schedule II drug and is used in medical settings to treat severe pain. Critics urge the Senate to drop the bill and focus on real health solutions to the overdose crisis.