Ranking Member Nadler Statement in Opposition to H.R. 2851, the “Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues Act”

Jun 15, 2018 Issues: Criminal Justice, Health Care

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) of the House Committee on the Judiciary delivered the following remarks on the House floor in opposition to H.R. 2851, the “Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues Act.” 

“I rise in opposition to H.R. 2851, the “Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues Act.” 

“This bill is well-intentioned, but fatally flawed.  I agree with the goal of preventing dangerous synthetic drugs from evading regulation.  But this bill circumvents existing procedures for placing synthetic analogues on the existing schedules of the Controlled Substances Act, which reasonably incorporate medical and scientific analysis, in favor of a law enforcement-focused approach that could worsen the mass incarceration crisis and could undermine scientific research.

“There are already statutory mechanisms in place to provide for the scheduling and regulation of new drugs that may be dangerous if misused.  Those mechanisms require an appropriate degree of collaboration at the outset among the Justice Department, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Food and Drug Administration in scheduling synthetic analogues.

“This is because each of these agencies is equally important to the scheduling process.  By marginalizing the roles of HHS and the FDA in this bill, we would establish a mechanism that does not adequately consider scientific and medical evidence about the substances in question.  Such input is critical to a process that may result in the imposition of significant criminal penalties related to these analog drugs. 

“Under this bill, not only would the Attorney General hold the sole authority to schedule these substances, but he or she would also have the power to set sentence levels for newly-scheduled analog drugs by establishing equivalencies between each newly-scheduled analog and drugs that are already controlled.

“As a result, this legislation would expand penalties for drug offenses, concentrate an overwhelming amount of unchecked power within the Justice Department, over-criminalize certain conduct, and punish individuals without adequate proof of intent.

“While the bill was slightly improved during our Committee markup—by eliminating the new mandatory minimum sentences included in the bill, as introduced—H.R. 2851 nevertheless would impose potentially lengthy maximum sentences for offenses involving these analogs.  And I am also concerned that substances designated as analogs under the procedures instituted by this bill could trigger the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences under other provisions of the Controlled Substances Act.  Although we have been told by the Majority that this is not the intent of the bill, this ambiguity is another reason to oppose this legislation. 

“At the very least, the bill would explicitly impose mandatory minimum terms of supervised release which, as the Judicial Conference of the United States observes, undermines the discretion of judges who are in the best position to make such determinations based on the facts and circumstances of each case.        

“We can do more to address concerns about emerging and potentially dangerous analog drugs, but this bill is not the answer. 

“I urge my colleagues to oppose this bill and yield back the balance of my time.”

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