Don’t Let Congress Increase Drug Penalties

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The U.S. House is expected to vote on the HALT Fentanyl Act as soon as this month. It would ramp up harsh mandatory minimum sentences for fentanyl analogues. And it would permanently make all fentanyl-related substances Schedule I without first testing them for benefits or harm.

Criminalization has already failed to keep our communities safer. Increased penalties will only put more lives at risk. In order to save lives, our government must prioritize a health approach to fentanyl and the overdose crisis, not more punishment.

Don’t let Congress pass this bill. Tell your U.S. Representative to oppose the HALT Fentanyl Act.

More criminalization has led to the overdose crisis and continues to make drugs stronger and more available. For over 50 years, the U.S. has been criminalizing people for using drugs. Yet tragic overdose deaths continue to rise. Criminalization led to this crisis – crackdowns on heroin incentivized the flow of fentanyl into the illicit drug supply, which is now the leading driver of overdose deaths. Harsher penalties will only result in even more potent substances entering the drug supply, increasing risk of overdose and other harms.

People will be punished regardless of science and evidence. A vast majority of the substances this bill would criminalize have never been researched or tested to determine potential harm. In fact, of the few the FDA did test, at least one showed properties similar to the overdose-reversing medication naloxone. And others were found to be completely harmless.

Communities of color will be disproportionately targeted, sentenced, and incarcerated. This bill would repeat the mistakes of the past just like what happened in the 1980s when fear, misinformation, and racism fueled harsh penalties for crack cocaine. It will have the same harmful result with Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people bearing the brunt of punishment.

We all want ourselves, our loved ones, and communities to be safe and healthy. It’s normal to feel scared when you hear about fentanyl and the overdose crisis. But so much of the information out there promotes failed punitive approaches based in fear.

Saving lives requires a new approach based in health, equity, and human rights. And the HALT Fentanyl Act is a dangerous step in the wrong direction.

With a House floor vote coming soon, please help us oppose it and fight instead for the health-based solutions that will save lives.


Maritza Perez Medina

Director, Federal Affairs, Drug Policy Alliance