South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley joins in a call for Congress to pass the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues Act. This week, 52 state and territory attorneys general signed a letter in support of the SOFA Act, which they say will close a loophole that keeps law enforcement a step behind the growing opioid epidemic.
The letter to Congressional leaders says that while many states are taking local action to combat illegal opioid use, fentanyl and its analogues are posing a problem for law enforcement. South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley explains it all comes down to the drug scheduling system. It categorizes drugs and determines action available to prosecutors. He says a schedule I drug has no medical value at all. Many opioids have specific medical use as pain killers and are categorized as schedule II.
“The challenge has been the illegal use of fentanyl," he explains. "And often times they change the chemistry a little bit, then our statutes don’t stay up to date and the scheduling doesn’t stay up to date."
Jackley says that’s why the SOFA Act is so important. It allows the Drug Enforcement Agency to proactively schedule illegal fentanyl analogues, rather than allowing manufacturers to evade prosecution by slightly altering the chemistry.
Jackley says South Dakota has done something similar for synthetic drugs on the state level, but the need to stay ahead of illegal drug manufacturers is still great both at home and across the nation.
“In 2017 we experienced 55 accidental drug overdoses in our state. It’s happening all too frequently, and these things make common sense to give law enforcement the tools we need to get after these particular drug challenges.”
Jackley says those overdose deaths are not broken down by specific drug, but all 55 are opioid related. He says law enforcement is most concerned about fentanyl, especially when mixed with heroin.
The letter to Congress says overdose deaths related to fentanyl now surpass deaths related to heroin on a national level. That’s according to a May hearing at the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee.