President Joe Biden made some important political moves this past month in an effort to combat the nation’s opioid addiction crisis. From the Oval Office, he signed new legislation that would extend a ban on addictive fentanyl like substances through October. The move actually came right down to the wire, with the signature in place just two days before the previous ban was set to expire. Interestingly, though, not everyone is excited about this latest news, turning it into somewhat of a divisive topic.
Fentantyl, as we are all mostly aware, has been one of the deadliest components of the opioid epidemic. It has been responsible for a large majority of the country’s fatal overdoses, accounting for more than 50,000 deaths last year alone. But is putting a ban on the substance the best solution to the problem? That remains to be seen.
Many Republicans have pushed to make this ban permanent, but that are certain civil rights groups that strongly disagree. In their opinions, theses types of bans can lead to lengthy jail sentences for people caught in possession of the substance. Yes the fear of jail time may deter some people from obtaining it, but for those in the throes of addiction it could lead to harsh (and perhaps unnecessary) criminal convictions.
Many have speculated that this was the reason that the Biden administration took their time greenlighting the ban’s extension. Several news outlets watched closely, with some believing that he would not sign it at all. But the decision was ultimately made in early May and the hope is that it sends a message to those who are dealing the drug on the streets.
With the ban in place, anyone now in possession of 100 grams (or 3.5 ounces) of a fentanyl substance will receive a mandatory 10 year penalty; which is the same as possessing 1 kilogram of heroin. As Biden has said in the past, the hope is that an effort like this can save lives and that is his administration’s foremost concern.
With this latest move, the United States Department of Justice issued a statement of their own. Their goal is to have this ban in place over the next five months, while simultaneously looking for a more permanent solution come October. “Our goal here is to work with Congress to seek a clean, five-month extension and prevent this important law enforcement tool from lapsing while we address legitimate concerns related to mandatory minimums and researcher access to these substances.”