Criminal Justice Reform in the Fentanyl Era: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Date:  02-04-2020

The Drug Policy Alliance reveals 45 states have proposed legislation to increase penalties for fentanyl while 39 states D.C. have passed or enacted such legislation
From Drug Policy Alliance:

Executive Summary

The U.S. is in the throes of a deadly overdose crisis that claimed almost 70,000 lives in 2018. Of those, around 30,000 deaths involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl.1,a Policymakers have responded to the overdose crisis with a rhetorical emphasis on “treatment instead of incarceration,” leading journalists to comment that we are in the midst of a “gentler war on drugs.”2 However, despite a change in discourse, draconian policies have persisted and in many cases been expanded. This is exemplified by many lawmakers’ reaction to fentanyl and other analog drugs, both on the state and federal level.

Since 2011, 45 states have proposed legislation to increase penalties for fentanyl while 39 states and Washington DC have passed or enacted such legislation.3 At this moment, some members of Congress are working to codify harsher penalties by placing fentanyl analogs permanently into Schedule 1 in both the Senate and the House with proposed legislation like the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues Act of 2019 (SOFA) and the FIGHT Act.4 In his annual State of the State 2020 address this month, New York’s Governor Cuomo proposed banning fentanyl analogs and expanding access to medication assisted treatment in the very same sentence.5 Legislators have dusted off the drug war playbook and proposed a variety of new punitive measures including new mandatory minimum sentences, homicide charges, involuntary commitment, expanded powers for prosecutors and more. These efforts repeat the mistakes that epitomize the failed war on drugs, while undermining efforts to reform our criminal justice system and pursue a public health approach to drug use. Indeed, such proposals risk compounding the overdose crisis. Continue reading the full report here.