U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, a Kansas Republican and physician, said he supported listing fentanyl analogs as Schedule I drugs on part with cocaine and heroin given the high number of overdose deaths. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall responded to the overdose epidemic tied to synthetic opioids by joining a bipartisan effort to approve federal legislation permanently listing fentanyl-related substances as controlled substances in the same manner as heroin and cocaine.
Marshall, a Kansas Republican and physician from Great Bend, said Tuesday he would support the HALT Fentanyl Act introduced in the Senate in December.
In 2018, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration used emergency powers to begin listing illicit versions of fentanyl as Schedule I drugs for law enforcement purposes. Temporary policy approved by Congress that continued to list fentanyl look-alikes could expire later this year.
“Fentanyl is the deadliest drugs our country has ever seen and is effecting Kansans at record rates,” Marshall said. “With just one teaspoon of fentanyl having the ability to kill thousands of people and a deadly amount being able to fit on the tip of a pencil, we must do everything in our power to stop this terrible scourge and give Kansas law enforcement the tools to help combat it.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated 90,000 people in the United States died of an overdose in 2020. The fastest-growing driver of those fatalities has been synthetic fentanyl. The drug is 80 to 100 times more powerful that morphine.
Under federal law, Schedule I drugs are considered to have a high potential to be abused and carry mandatory minimum sentences. Objections to permanently listing fentanyl analogs were raised by Democrats concerned that mandatory minimums lead to racial disparity in the justice system.
Marshall also sponsored a Senate resolution designating Tuesday as National Fentanyl Awareness Day. The goal is to emphasize the impact of counterfeit fentanyl-related substances frequently mixed with other drugs with deadly consequences.
Nationwide, four in 10 pills examined by U.S. Drug Enforcement Ageny labs contain a deadly amount of fentanyl-related substance, an amount that can fit on the tip of a pencil.
Kansas endured a 54% increase in drug overdoses during the initial six months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. Of the 338 Kansans who died of an overdose from Jan. 1 to June 30 in 2021, 149 were known to have involved fentanyl or a fentanyl analog.
The state recorded more than 2,500 drug overdoses in the first three months of 2022, Marshall said. The Wichita Police Department worked five suspected overdose cases in a 24-hour period.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.