President Trump last month signed into law sweeping bipartisan legislation (H.R.6) aimed at combating the nation’s opioid epidemic.
Opioids are narcotics used primarily for pain relief. But they are also used for their euphoric effects. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “49,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2017, according to provisional numbers.” The CDC distinguishes between three types of opioids: prescription, fentanyl, and heroin.
Prescription opioids can be prescribed by doctors to treat moderate to severe pain, but can also have serious risks and side effects. Common types are oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine, and methadone.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever. It is many times more powerful than other opioids and is approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain. Illegally made and distributed fentanyl has been on the rise in several states.
Heroin is an illegal opioid. Heroin use has increased across the U.S. among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels.
The Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act or the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act contains Medicaid, Medicare, and other health provisions to address the opioid crisis. They include:
- The Abuse Deterrent Access Act
- The Medicare Opioid Safety Education Act
- The Opioid Addiction Action Plan Act
- The Advancing High Quality Treatment for Opioid Use Disorders in Medicare Act
- The Preventing Addiction for Susceptible Seniors Act
- The Expanding Oversight of Opioid Prescribing and Payment Act
- The Combating Opioid Abuse for Care in Hospitals Act
- The Stop Excessive Narcotics in our Retirement Communities Protection Act
- The Synthetic Drug Awareness Act
- The Empowering Pharmacists in the Fight Against Opioid Abuse Act
- The Indexing Narcotics, Fentanyl, and Opioids Act
- The Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Act
- The Preventing Overdoses While in Emergency Rooms Act
- The Alternatives to Opioids in the Emergency Department Act
- The Comprehensive Opioid Recovery Centers Act
- The Better Pain Management Through Better Data Act
- The Stop Illicit Drug Importation Act
- The Reauthorizing and Extending Grants for Recovery from Opioid Use Programs Act
Buried in Title IX is the Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues Act or the SITSA Act. It
establishes a new, sixth schedule of controlled substances — schedule A. A drug or substance in schedule A has a chemical structure that is similar to a controlled substance in schedule I, II, III, IV, or V, and has a similar or greater depressive, stimulant, or hallucinogenic effect than a controlled substance in one of those schedules.
This Act also “authorizes, and establishes procedures for, the DEA to place a drug or substance in schedule A” and “establishes registration and labeling requirements, as well as criminal penalties, relating to schedule A substances.”
In other words, it expands the federal government’s war on drugs. What a shame that no Democrats and only one Republican in the Senate and eight in the House voted against this bill.
President Trump said during a ceremony at the White House celebrating the signing of H.R. 6, “Together we are going to end the scourge of drug addiction in America. We are either going to end it or we are going to make an extremely big dent in this terrible, terrible problem.”
A White House press release maintains that the legislation “addresses the opioid crisis by reducing access to and the supply of opioids and by expanding access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services.”
Sitting in the front row of the president’s ceremony in the East Room of the White House was a man that most Americans have certainly never heard of. Uttam Dhillon is acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the third-consecutive acting administrator for the DEA during Trump’s term in office. Dhillon, who worked in the Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement under the George W. Bush administration, has come under fire from police groups for not having a stronger background in law enforcement. He also had a hand in appointing the new acting DEA chief, but is alleged to have “urged several candidates to withdraw from the process before ultimately taking the job himself.” Said Jonathan Thompson, chief executive of the National Sheriffs’ Association, “It baffles me that he could sway the vetting process and help decide who wasn’t qualified, while he floated to the top, because we don’t see a single qualification that makes him eligible to lead the agency.”
But instead of complaining about how the head of the DEA got his job, what Americans in and out of law enforcement ought to be complaining about is the very existence of the DEA in the first place.
The official mission of the DEA
is to enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States and bring to the criminal and civil justice system of the United States, or any other competent jurisdiction, those organizations and principal members of organizations, involved in the growing, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances appearing in or destined for illicit traffic in the United States; and to recommend and support non-enforcement programs aimed at reducing the availability of illicit controlled substances on the domestic and international markets.
The DEA “has 222 Domestic Offices in 23 Divisions throughout the U.S., and 91 Foreign Offices in 70 countries.” The agency employs more than 8,000 people, including agents, analysts, pilots, chemists, attorneys, and assorted bureaucrats, and has an annual budget of more than $2 billion.
The DEA not only enforces “the provisions of the Controlled Substances Act as they pertain to the manufacture, distribution, and dispensing of legally produced controlled substances,” it also engages in the “seizure and forfeiture of assets derived from, traceable to, or intended to be used for illicit drug trafficking.” The DEA also operates the Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program (DCE/SP), to aggressively “halt the spread of cannabis cultivation in the United States.” In 2017, the DCE/SP “was responsible for the eradication of 3,078,418 cultivated outdoor cannabis plants and 303,654 indoor plants for a total of 3,382,072 marijuana plants.”
Although the federal government has hundreds of departments, agencies, bureaus, boards, administrations, and commissions that have no constitutional authority, they are not all created equal. For example, the Department of Agriculture, which should not exist, has a Food and Nutrition Service, which also should not exist, that operates a food stamp program, which likewise should not exist. And although it is certainly wrong for the government to take money from some Americans and give it to other Americans on an EBT card so they can buy food at the grocery store, at least the food stamp program results in something positive: children have enough food to eat (if their parents don’t waste their food stamp benefits on junk food and sugar-laden soda).
There is nothing positive about the DEA. Everything it does is pure evil: unnecessarily clogging the judicial system, asset forfeiture, no-knock raids, destroying property, criminalizing vice, arresting and incarcerating people for committing victimless crimes, destroying personal and financial privacy, ruining lives, devastating families, wasting the taxpayers’ money. And on top of all that, it has not reduced drug use, drug availability, drug demand, or drug overdoses.
The DEA doesn’t need a new chief with a stronger background in law enforcement. It needs to be eliminated, along with the drug czar and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).
There should be no controlled substances laws and regulations. No organizations or principal members of organizations should be brought to the criminal and civil justice system of the United States because of drug laws. No one involved in the growing, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances appearing in or destined for illicit traffic in the United States should be molested because there should be no such thing as controlled substances or illicit trafficking in drugs. The government should neither recommend nor support non-enforcement programs aimed at reducing the availability of illicit controlled substances on the domestic and international markets.