Illicit fentanyl will be categorized as a Schedule I drug, making it easier for federal prosecutors and agents to prosecute traffickers, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced. The move gives the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) the ability to take immediate action to stop illicit fentanyl from entering the U.S.
The scheduling of all illicit fentanyl analogues will go into effect 30 days after the DEA publishes its notice of intent, at which point anyone who posseses, imports, distributes or manufactures illicit fentanyl will now be subject to criminal prosecution as they are with other controlled substances.
“Overseas chemical manufacturers, aided by illicit domestic distributors, currently attempt to evade regulatory controls by creating structural variants of fentanyl that are not directly listed under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA),” the DOJ said in a statement.
Prior to this measure, prosecutors had to provide steep evidence in order to get convections from traffickers of illicit fentanyl, most of which enters the U.S. through the mail or other shipping systems or across the southwest border.
The move is another step toward tackling the growing opioid epidemic. “By scheduling all fentanyls, we empower our law enforcement officers and prosecutors to take swift and necessary action against those spreading these deadly poisons,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.