WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Congressman Jim Jordan (R, Ohio-4), ranking members of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees today renewed their request for the Biden Administration’s views on deadly fentanyl analogues. In a letter to the Justice Department and Drug Enforcement Administration, the lawmakers again called for a briefing on the administration’s plans to combat the deadly opioid and reiterated specific questions regarding the administration’s position on controlling fentanyl related substances.
 
“We are encouraged that DOJ and DEA believe scheduling FRS is critical in combating fentanyl abuse, overdose deaths, and preventing drug trafficking organizations from spreading poison in our communities. However, we were disappointed that your response failed to answer the four questions posed,” Grassley and Jordan wrote.
 
The lawmakers initially sought details on the administration’s plans to combat the influx of fentanyl analogues fueling the ongoing opioid epidemic in March. Though the administration acknowledged that temporary class-wide restrictions have left drug traffickers with “little incentive to invent new [fentanyl-related substances] for the purpose of evading federal law enforcement,” it has yet to respond to specific questions posed by the lawmakers or provide a staff-level update on the fentanyl analogues.
 
Full text of today’s letter to DOJ and DEA follow:
 
June 9, 2021
 
The Honorable Merrick B. Garland
Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530
 
Mr. D. Christopher Evans
Acting Administrator
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
8701 Morrissette Drive
Springfield, VA 22151
 
Dear Attorney General Garland and Acting Administrator Evans:
 
Thank you for your response, dated May 11, 2021, to our letter about the temporary scheduling authority for fentanyl analogues. You indicated your gratitude to Congress for extending the life-saving fentanyl-related substances (FRS) scheduling authority until October 22, 2021. Although we supported lengthier and more permanent solutions to address FRS, we are grateful that this authority did not lapse.
 
Your May 11 response noted how scheduling FRS keeps the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from being in a “reactive mode” and that with class scheduling, “drug trafficking organizations . . . have little incentive to invent new FRS for the purpose of evading federal law enforcement.”[1] We are encouraged that DOJ and DEA believe scheduling FRS is critical in combating fentanyl abuse, overdose deaths, and preventing drug trafficking organizations from spreading poison in our communities. However, we were disappointed that your response failed to answer the four questions posed. Specifically, we asked direct questions about the Biden Administration’s position on scheduling FRS; the impact that a lapse in authority would have on the U.S. opioid crisis; how scheduling FRS has positively affected law enforcement’s ability to seize these dangerous drugs; and how permanent scheduling of FRS would affect research.
 
We also requested a staff-level briefing on this serious issue. As of June 8, 2021, we have yet to receive outreach from the DOJ or DEA about setting up a staff-level briefing. We cannot overstate how important it is for Congress to be fully aware of ongoing interagency conversations about how to schedule FRS on a permanent basis. We have received information that there has been outreach and communication only with the majority staffs of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. However, without intentional bipartisan and bicameral engagement from the Administration, we will be left with another short-term extension instead of legislating a permanent solution. We cannot and should not legislate such a critical issue on temporary bases.
 
We look forward to your detailed response to our original four questions posed in the March 25 letter, and hearing back about proposed dates for a staff-level briefing on this issue.
 
Sincerely.
 
Charles E. Grassley
Ranking Member
Senate Committee on the Judiciary
 
Jim Jordan
Ranking Member
House Committee on the Judiciary
 
Cc:         The Honorable Dick Durbin
               Chairman
               Senate Committee on the Judiciary
 
               The Honorable Jerrold L. Nadler
               Chairman
               House Committee on the Judiciary
 
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[1] Letter from Joseph Gaeta, Deputy Assistant Attorney Gen., Dep’t. of Justice, to Rep. Jim Jordan, Ranking Member, H. Comm. on the Judiciary and Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Ranking Member, S. Comm. on the Judiciary (May 11, 2021).