WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of senators, led by Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), today introduced legislation to reauthorize temporary class-wide restrictions on fentanyl analogues, which have fueled overdose deaths in the opioid epidemic. The Temporary Extension of Fentanyl Scheduling Act of 2021 extends for 14 months a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) order placing all substances that are substantially similar to fentanyl on Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act. The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas).
“Until recently, the United States was awash in deadly fentanyl knockoffs – mostly from China. But an emergency authority restricting all fentanyl analogues has dramatically curbed the flow of this poison into the United States. This bill extends that authority and prevents another wave of fentanyl analogues from hitting the streets and claiming more lives. Less poison entering our country means fewer overdoses and fewer prosecutions for related drug crimes,” Grassley said.
“As the substance use disorder epidemic continues to devastate New Hampshire families and communities, we need to make sure that law enforcement continues to have the tools it needs to combat fentanyl trafficking,” Hassan said. “I am glad to work across the aisle to ensure that the Drug Enforcement Administration can continue to go after all forms of deadly fentanyl.” 
“Tens of thousands of Texans die each year from opioid overdoses, and synthetic drugs that mimic fentanyl are helping fuel their addictions,” Cornyn said. “By reauthorizing these restrictions on synthetic fentanyl, we can continue our fight against the opioid epidemic while reducing crimes related to these drugs.” 
Throughout much of the opioid epidemic, drug kingpins have laced heroin and other drugs with highly potent fentanyl, a controlled substance. They sidestepped restrictions by continuously altering its chemical makeup to push equally potent drugs that haven’t yet been outlawed. To keep pace with rapidly evolving fentanyl analogues in 2018, the DEA temporarily restricted all substances substantially similar to fentanyl. In 2020, Congress extended this authority for 15 months, with unanimous support in the Senate. The authority expires on May 6.
Much of the synthetic fentanyl is produced in China, which reached an agreement with the Trump administration to mirror U.S. fentanyl restrictions. Since taking effect three years ago, the authority has significantly reduced law enforcement encounters with fentanyl analogues, and has only been charged in eight prosecutions. Allowing the U.S. restrictions to lapse would likely re-open the floodgates of Chinese fentanyl analogues.
Bill text is available HERE.