STOP THE IMPORTATION AND TRAFFICKING OF SYNTHETIC ANALOGUES ACT OF 2017
Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentlewoman from Texas for yielding the time, and I thank her for her leadership in opposing this bill.
I, too, oppose the bill. This bill is yet another in a long line of so-called tough-on-crime bills that Congress has enacted since President Nixon declared a war on drugs nearly 50 years ago. These laws have, without question, failed to win the so-called war. But they have succeeded in placing the United States as number one in incarceration rates in the world to the extent it is so bad that some studies have actually shown that our incarceration rate is so bad that it actually adds to crime because so many children are being raised by parents who are incarcerated.
So much of the Department of Justice budget has been on prisons that aren't doing any good when that money should be spent on things that could do some good. Too many people have felony records and can't find jobs who are actually adding to crime by this so-called war on drugs.
Mr. Chairman, there are three main reasons why I oppose this bill. First, the bill abandons evidence and expertise in exchange for expediency. By giving the Attorney General the power to permanently designate analogue substances to a new drug schedule, he will be free to ignore the experts at the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Drug Administration. This is the Attorney General whose judgment has led him to rip children from their parents at the border.
The bill also codifies drug equivalency laws which are used at sentencing absent any input from the United States Sentencing Commission, which is already conducting an in-depth study of analogue drugs. In addition to research and expertise, the Sentencing Commission also possesses the flexibility to adjust sentencing guidelines as necessary if its knowledge of analogue substances changes.
Second, the bill will add to the problem of mass incarceration. By enacting higher sentences without a mens rea requirement, people could serve longer sentences even if they did not know that a drug contained an analogue substance.
Third, we simply do not need the bill. The Department of Justice already prosecutes cases involving drug analogues under existing law. The then-Acting Administrator of the DEA said as much in her testimony before the Judiciary Committee on December 12 of last year when she described the current legal process as workable but resource intensive.
Mr. Chairman, let's not enact yet another law that sends more people to prison while ignoring the root cause of the current crisis; that is, substance abuse, which is a public health problem and should be treated as such.
Other opioid bills we have been considering take this public health--not criminal justice--approach. That is the approach we should take, and we should pursue that strategy by rejecting this bill.