Attorney General Fox Urges Congress to Close Deadly Fentanyl Loophole

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, as part of a bipartisan group of 52 state and territory attorneys general, called on Congress today to close a loophole that allows fentanyl traffickers to avoid law enforcement. In a letter to Congressional leaders, the attorneys general asked Congress to pass S. 1553 and H.R. 4922, the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues (SOFA) Act. Fentanyl is currently a Schedule II controlled substance. When used as prescribed by a physician, it can be a safe painkiller. However, outside of careful supervision, fentanyl and analogues manufactured illicitly can be lethal. (Analogues, often referred to as “designer drugs,” are made to mimic the effects of a certain drug while avoiding laws.)

“Congress needs to do all it can to help our nation’s law enforcement and first responders as they battle our opioid crisis,” said Attorney General Tim Fox. “Swift passage of the SOFA Act would be an important step in our fight against fentanyl abuse and the manufacturers of its lethal and illicit analogues, which kill people all across the country.”

The SOFA Act, if passed by Congress, eliminates the loophole that keeps the controlled-substance scheduling system one step behind those who manufacture fentanyl analogues and introduce these powders into the opioid supply. The SOFA Act allows the Drug Enforcement Administration to proactively schedule all newly modified fentanyl analogues.

Last fall, Attorney General Fox hosted training for Montana’s law enforcement officers and prosecutors on how to best investigate and prosecute death cases resulting from overdoses of heroin, fentanyl, and methamphetamine. The training was part of Attorney General Fox’s Aid Montana initiative, which seeks to strategically and comprehensively address the state’s substance abuse epidemic.

According to Montana’s State Crime Lab, fentanyl was detected in 29 postmortem cases in 2016 and 15 postmortem cases in 2017. In autopsied cases, it was determined to be the cause of death in nine cases in 2016 and three cases in 2017. In 2016, there were three overdoses tied to designer opiates (furanyl-fentanyl, U-47700, and carfentanil) and four overdoses in 2017. For more information, read the Crime Lab’s 2017 Annual Report.

In addition to Montana, the other attorneys general who signed the letter were 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, 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.