Vote No on Extending Emergency Scheduling of Fentanyl Analogues

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April 21, 2021

VOTE NO on Extending Emergency Scheduling of Fentanyl Analogues

Dear Senator,

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 220 national organizations to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States, we urge you to vote NO on any legislation that would temporarily or permanently extend the class-wide scheduling of fentanyl analogues. Extending the temporary “class-wide” emergency scheduling of fentanyl-related substances will exacerbate pretrial detention, mass incarceration, and racial disparities in the prison system. The Leadership Conference plans to include your vote on any such legislation in our Voting Record for the 117th Congress.

Earlier this month, The Leadership Conference, along with more than 100 organizations wrote to urge Congress and President Biden to let the Trump Administration’s temporary “class-wide” emergency scheduling of fentanyl-related substances expire in May 2021. Class-wide scheduling doubles down on a fear-based, enforcement-first response to a public health challenge. There is ample evidence that these unscientific policies destroy communities, entrench racial disparities, and do nothing to reduce drug supply or demand. Indeed, when Congress approved a temporary 15-month extension of this policy in January 2020, it requested that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) prepare a report to evaluate the utility of class-wide scheduling. The GAO found that: the class-wide ban did not reduce the number of novel fentanyl-related substances in the United States; and the Trump Administration rarely used the additional sentencing authorities provided by the class-wide scheduling, and when it did, the target was for low-level drug offenses. An extension of this policy, therefore, serves only to harm those who are in most need of support—not criminalization.

Indeed, any extension of the class-wide scheduling policy will exacerbate untenable federal sentencing trends involving fentanyl analogues. For instance, between 2015 and 2019, prosecutions for fentanyl-analogue prosecutions increased by 5000%. And, in 2019, 68% of those sentenced in fentanyl analogue cases were people of color, furthering the unsettling racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

The decision to extend this policy, and the Biden Administration’s support of such a decision, is at direct odds with the civil and human rights, criminal justice, and public health communities. Any legislation to extend the class-wide scheduling of fentanyl analogues—like the House’s passage of H.R. 2630—will maintain the status quo and further an antiquated response to a public health crisis. If ever there were a moment communities were calling for a new approach to public safety—this is it. We urge you to vote NO on any bill that would extend this policy and to, instead, support legislation grounded in public health and evidence-based approaches to illicit fentanyl-related overdose deaths. We must not continue criminalizing our way through public health crises and instead shepherd approaches that are supportive, restorative, and healing—not decimating.

If you have any questions, please contact Jaspal Bhatia, Senior Manager, Justice Reform, at [email protected]

Sincerely,

Wade Henderson
Interim President and CEO

LaShawn Warren
Executive Vice President for Government Affairs