WASHINGTON D.C. — On Thursday Congress passed a bill that lawmakers hope will lead to fewer deaths involving fentanyl.
The synthetic opioid is playing a serious role in America’s deadly drug epidemic.
The bill passed in the House.
Republicans support it and so does the White House.
But others say, not so fast.
From the border towns where fentanyl arrives to the U.S. cities where the drug kills, everyone is looking for answers.
Lawmakers voted Thursday to make the drug a Schedule I substance and increase existing sentencing laws for fentanyl-related substances.
“Focusing on substance use disorder treatments and harm reduction techniques alone will not address the unique threat posed by fentanyl,” Rep. Max Miller (R-OH) said.
It’s personal for others, like Congresswoman Brittany Pettersen (D-CO), whose mother struggled with opioid addictions.
“I absolutely want the person who was my mom’s dealer who would show up to the hospital and put heroin mixed with fentanyl in her IV - I want that person in jail for a very long time. But if my mom had a mandatory jail sentence that would have been a death sentence for her,” Pettersen said.
The Drug Policy Alliance sent a letter to the White House where more than 150 public health, criminal justice reform, and civil rights organizations urged the president to not support this.
They wrote it “will only exacerbate the harms of illicit drug activity and will do nothing to further the public health solutions urgently needed.”
They say the legislation would worsen racial disparities.
“The people were dying, the most continue to be people in Black communities and Native American. And yet, there isn’t a real clear strategy about how to prevent those deaths,” Tracie Gardner with Black Harm Reduction Network said.
Right now the White House supports this move.
But it still needs to pass in the Senate before going to the president.