Most of us know that Attorney General Jeff Sessions doesn't have the most rational views when it comes to drug policy in the United States. And yet Congress wants to make him solely responsible for determining what drugs should be illegal.
A few weeks ago the House of Representatives passed the Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogs (SITSA) Act. The bill would essentially create a new classification in the Controlled Substances Act, the bill that makes marijuana a Schedule I narcotic a.k.a. the most dangerous type of drug available. The new classification would be called Schedule A and it would allow the government to outlaw certain drugs that are derivatives of narcotics that are currently illegal.
The bill is meant as a way to combat the opioid crisis. There are versions of fentanyl and other deadly opioids that are technically different at the formulaic level, and therefore aren't the same as the normal versions that are illegal. These alternative versions are being made overseas and then imported into the United States. This bill would help make those versions illegal and not available for import, which would hopefully reduce opioid deaths.
However, the bill would also allow the Attorney General, currently Jeff Sessions, to have basically unchecked authority to add whatever drugs he wants to this new Schedule A status. The Senate version of the bill would allow Sessions to add drugs to the new list without congressional oversight or approval from the Department of Health and Human Services.
The House Liberty Caucus criticized the bill for possibly allowing Sessions to have unlimited and unchecked powers to expand the War on Drugs. They say the bill will "cede more of Congress's legislative authority to the Attorney General and grant the AG more power to fight the war on drugs, which has eroded federalism, eviscerated numerous individual rights, entrenched severe discrimination in our criminal justice system, and failed to meaningfully limit the proliferation of illicit drugs."
The fear is that Sessions wouldn't just use his power to make these chemical derivatives of opioids illegal, but would start going after other drugs as well. For instance, the drug kratom is used by many people to help treat chronic pain without having to use dangerous opioids. But many people also believe the drug should be illegal. This bill could allow Sessions to outlaw kratom without input from Congress or any other regulatory agencies.
So while the intentions of Congress to pass this bill may be good, the results could simply put one of America's least rational politicians in a position to massively expand the War on Drugs.