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August 29, 2018

Media Contact: Liz Brocker (701) 328-2213

BISMARCK, ND – Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem joined a bipartisan group of 52 state and territory attorneys general calling on Congress to help end the opioid epidemic and close a loophole in federal law that allows those who traffic deadly fentanyl to stay a step ahead of law enforcement.

“North Dakota has already taken action to close the loophole, by changing state law last year. However, because drug trafficking rings operate both nationally and internationally, we need the same changes to be made at the federal level,” said Stenehjem.

The attorneys general sent a letter to Congress in support of S. 1552 and H.R. 4922, Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues (SOFA) Act. Fentanyl is currently a Schedule II controlled substance and when used as prescribed by a doctor, can be a safe painkiller. However without careful supervision, fentanyl and analogues manufactured illicitly can be lethal.

The SOFA Act, if passed by the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, would eliminate the current loophole in federal law which keeps the controlled substance scheduling system one step behind those who manufacture fentanyl analogues and then put these powerful fentanyl analogues into the opioid supply. The SOFA Act utilizes catch-all language which will allow the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to proactively schedule all newly-modified fentanyl analogues.

Stenehjem explained that criminal laws must specify what’s outlawed but slight variations in the chemical structure make it a new compound. “The proposed change to federal law that this letter urges would make groups of substances illegal, starting with the core molecular structure and specifying the variations, so even if drug traffickers make a slight alteration to the chemical structure, the resulting new variation would still be an illegal substance,” he continued.

The Act would make permanent the changes made by the DEA to the federal controlled substances schedules.

Read the Letter to Congress.

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