Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General
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Charlotte Gomer, Press Secretary
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ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING URGES CONGRESS TO CLOSE DEADLY FENTANYL LOOPHOLE
~ In Virginia, fentanyl deaths have gone up 1,337% since 2009 ~
RICHMOND (August 23, 2018) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined a bipartisan coalition of 52 state and territory attorneys general to call on Congress to help end the opioid epidemic and close a loophole that allows those who traffic deadly fentanyl to stay a step ahead of law enforcement. Since 2009, Virginia has seen fentanyl overdose deaths increase by 1,337 percent.
"I remain committed to combatting the opioid crisis that is affecting communities across the Commonwealth and the country,” said Attorney General Herring. "Fentanyl has become the biggest driver of the rise in overdose deaths in Virginia and far too many Virginians are still losing their lives and loved ones to this dangerous drug. Fentanyl can be deadly in microscopic doses, which makes it a threat to law enforcement and first responders who are investigating or trying to treat an overdose. It's also indistinguishable from heroin and other opioids, meaning that a user can suffer a fatal overdose on any use without even realizing what they are taking. We need to make it as hard as we can for criminals and drug dealers to get their hands on this deadly drug, which is why I am urging Congress to close this loophole.”
Attorney General Herring sent a letter to Congress in support of S. 1553 and H.R. 4922, Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues (SOFA) Act. Fentanyl is currently a Schedule II controlled substance. However, outside of careful supervision, fentanyl and analogues manufactured illicitly can be lethal.
The SOFA Act, if passed by the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, would eliminate the current loophole which keeps the controlled substance scheduling system one step behind those who manufacture fentanyl analogue and then introduce these powders into the opioid supply. The SOFA Act utilizes catch-all language which will allow the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to proactively schedule all newly-modified fentanyl analogues.
Fentanyl is a particularly dangerous drug because even the smallest of doses can be fatal and, in many cases, it is indistinguishable from heroin. It can be hundreds of times more powerful than morphine and much more powerful than heroin. In Virginia alone, 2,182 people have died from a fentanyl overdoes since 2007. Additionally, cartels have begun to import chemicals from China to create their own homemade batches of fentanyl that they then sell on the streets. Importing these chemicals from China has made it even more difficult for law enforcement officials to crack down on the drugs because of complicating factors like Chinese chemical control laws, import laws, and the dark web where people can easily buy and sell the ingredients needed to make these drugs.
The heroin and prescription opioid epidemic has been a top priority for Attorney General Herring. He and his team continue to attack the problem with a multifaceted approach that includes enforcement, education, prevention, and legislation to encourage reporting of overdoses in progress, expand the availability of naloxone, and expand access to the Prescription Monitoring Program. He has supported federal efforts to improve the availability of treatment and recovery resources and made prescription drug disposal kits available across the Commonwealth. Attorney General Herring recently outlined his recommended next steps for combating the crisis, focusing on law enforcement initiatives, support from the medical community, and recovery, treatment, prevention and education. He and his team also continue to participate in a multistate investigation into the practices of additional drug manufacturers and distributors to determine what role they may have played in creating or prolonging the crisis and what accountability they should face.
Attorney General Herring and his team have handled 117 cases against heroin and fentanyl dealers and traffickers involving more than 667 pounds of heroin (302 kilograms) worth more than $37 million on the street. These cases against dealers and traffickers have involved 39 overdose victim fatalities as well as 47 overdose victims who survived.
The attorneys general who signed this letter include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.