House Republicans, One-Third of House Democrats Vote to Double Down on the Drug War

Jonathan Cohn
2 min readMay 26, 2023

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Yesterday, the House decided to double down on the drug war by passing the “HALT Fentanyl” Act, which would permanently schedule fentanyl-related substances (FRS) on schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and impose mandatory minimum sentences for fentanyl-related offenses.

A letter signed by more than 150 groups, such as the ACLU, American Friends Service Committee, Color of Change, and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, called on representatives to vote no on the bill, outlining its many problems:

(1) Harming research: “…Classifying all FRS in schedule I places undue restrictions on research for therapeutic potential of FRS. This means that researchers and scientists are not able to study these substances at a time when the U.S. is experiencing record number overdose deaths.”

(2) Exacerbating the inequities of the criminal legal system: “…What’s more, by automatically scheduling a huge swathe of substances in one fell swoop, the HALT Fentanyl Act would lead to very real criminal justice consequences, posing an unacceptable risk of unnecessary incarceration for substances that carry no potential for abuse……Any further extension of the classwide scheduling policy threatens to repeat past missteps with crack cocaine that policymakers are still working to rectify.”

(3) Allowing for no possibility of course-correction: “…Despite the threat of grave injustices in the criminal legal system, the current lack of research on FRS, and indications that some FRS are harmless or hold therapeutic potential, the HALT Fentanyl Act does not include an offramp to reschedule or remove FRS that research has proven to be pharmacologically inactive or do not meet schedule I criteria.”

The bill passed 289 to 133, with 1 Republican — Tom Massie (KY-03) — voting against it and 74 Democrats voting in favor of it.

Here are those 74 Democrats:

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Jonathan Cohn

Editor. Bibliophile. Gadfly. Environmentalist. Super-volunteer for progressive campaigns. Boston by way of Baltimore, London, NYC, DC, and Philly.