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Public Statements

Synthetic Drug Control Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. CARNAHAN. Mr. Speaker, I rise to clarify my position on H.R. 1254, the Synthetic Drug Control Act.

My vote in support of H.R. 1254 is not without reservations. I support this legislation because the health and safety of our citizens is my primary concern. This legislation will protect our communities, and particularly our youth, from more than forty new and dangerous synthetic drugs. These substances have been the cause of violent incidents and numerous deaths around the nation and it is preferable to immediately list them as Schedule I as opposed to allowing them to continue to be abused in our communities.

Criminalizing these substances, however, will not solve the root problem of drug abuse in our communities. I have serious concerns about the over-criminalization of drugs. Mandatory minimum sentences lead to over-capacity criminal justice and prison systems at significant burden to taxpayers. I have long advocated for a comprehensive approach to drug abuse treatment, including education, prevention, treatment, research, and enforcement. In fact, I have authored legislation to expand accessible treatment, especially for underserved communities, and research into cutting edge treatment therapies. Responsible law enforcement is just the way to address this issue, and it must be executed in conjunction with a robust and multifaceted approach that targets the root of drug abuse problems.

I also have concerns about the impact of penalties in H.R. 1254 on our scientific research processes. While, it is regrettable that H.R. 1254 circumvents the process for listing drugs as laid out in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), it is necessary in this circumstance. The evidentiary procedure in CSA has worked well for determining the listing of new substances. Unfortunately, it can be time-intensive and the law enforcement community, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Department of Justice, supports the immediate listing of these synthetic drugs because of the harm they inflict on our communities. This bill increases the length of time that a new substance can be temporarily scheduled by the DEA, thereby allowing more time for the usual CSA listing process to be carried out.

Throughout my career I have supported scientific research. The study of synthetic drugs is important for understanding their impact on health and their potential beneficial uses. Unfortunately, most of the substances included in this legislation have not been subjected to extensive scientific study, and I am concerned that listing them as Schedule I drugs may inhibit the study of these drugs. While the DEA has a procedure for scientists to study Schedule I controlled substances, it presents greater barriers for scientists to work with these drugs. As of October 4, 2011, the DEA has 325 researchers conducting research with Schedule I controlled substances. These researchers include research centers and universities who seek to better understand the effects of Schedule I controlled substances. Additionally, as of October 4, 2011, the DEA has 3,983 active registrants who manufacture, research, and conduct chemical analysis with Schedule I controlled substances. I encourage the scientific community to continue their efforts to understand these and other drugs.

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