WASHINGTON – Congressman Vern Buchanan today praised U.S. House passage of legislation to crack down on the scourge of deadly fentanyl and provide law enforcement with the tools they need to keep these deadly drugs off our streets. The House-passed bill closely mirrors Buchanan’s Federal Initiative to Guarantee Health by Targeting (FIGHT) Fentanyl Act (H.R.3629), which would make permanent the current, albeit temporary, classification of fentanyl-related substances as Schedule I drugs.

“The number of overdose deaths across the country annually due to illegal fentanyl-related substances is tragic and deeply alarming,” said Buchanan. “These illegal drugs are destroying lives and families not only in our backyard in Southwest Florida, but across the country. I’m pleased to see the House take action to help keep these dangerous drugs out of our communities.”

Since 2018, fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances have been classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule I substance to allow federal law enforcement authorities to bring criminal actions against individuals who manufacture, distribute or handle fentanyl-related substances. The current temporary classification expires on Dec. 31, 2024. 

On Thursday, the House passed the Halt All Lethal Trafficking of (HALT) Fentanyl Act (H.R. 467), which, like Buchanan’s bill, permanently schedules fentanyl-related substances as Schedule I drugs. Buchanan is also an original cosponsor of the HALT Fentanyl Act. In addition to the permanent scheduling of fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances, the HALT Fentanyl Act also subjects illegal distributors to mandatory minimum sentences.

Fentanyl is a synthetic drug similar to heroin, but 50 times more powerful. These drugs are often manufactured in foreign countries like China and trafficked across the southern border. In fact, fentanyl seizures by Customs and Border Patrol have exploded by more than 400 percent since fiscal year 2019. A lethal dose of fentanyl is just 2 milligrams and it is often laced into other drugs, causing accidental overdoses and killing users very quickly.

Last year, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office seized 11 pounds of fentanyl in Florida, enough to kill 2.7 million people. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office had received information that an international drug cartel was trafficking fentanyl from Mexico to the city of Bradenton and then to Polk County.

In 2022, almost 110,000 Americans died of an overdose according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than 75,000 of those deaths involved synthetic opioids, like fentanyl and fentanyl analogs per the CDC. Fentanyl overdoses are the number one cause of death of adults aged 18-49, which is more than cancer, heart disease and car accidents.

“This bill is one more tool for law enforcement to use to fight back against the illegal fentanyl producers, smugglers and dealers who are directly responsible for the deaths of so many Americans and reduce the amount of illegal fentanyl on our streets,” added Buchanan.

Buchanan has introduced the FIGHT Fentanyl Act since 2021, when fentanyl overdoses began to skyrocket as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. He has long championed raising awareness of America’s drug crisis and taking forceful steps to address it.

Last year, Buchanan secured $2 million to increase grants to prevent prescription drug and opioid overdoses.

In 2019, Buchanan’s Fentanyl Sanctions Act was signed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It imposed economic penalties on China-based drug manufacturers that knowingly send synthetic opioids to drug traffickers and criminal operations.