Why A Bill Called The ‘HALT Fentanyl Act’ Has Some Lawmakers Split


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The Republican-led House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday aimed at restricting access to the synthetic opioid fentanyl, which has been blamed for causing an overdose crisis in the U.S., by classifying it as a drug with no medical purpose—but more than 100 Democrats voted against the legislation over concerns it could lead to unjustified incarcerations and stifle research involving the drug for purposes like treating pain from cancer.

Key Facts

The bill—called the HALT Fentanyl Act—passed in a 289-133 vote that had support from 215 House Republicans along with 74 Democrats—with nearly all of the opposition coming from the remaining House Democrats.

If the act becomes law, fentanyl-related substances would be classified as Schedule I drugs, which the Drug Enforcement Administration defines as a substance “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

Proponents of the act believe it can rein in rising numbers of drug and fentanyl overdoses, after synthetic opioids caused more than 70,000 deaths in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—the most recent year data is available.

Republican supporters of the bill portray it as a straightforward way to curtail a worsening drug epidemic, while Democrats are split on whether the proposal could end up doing unnecessary harm.

Opponents of it, including groups like Human Rights Watch, are concerned the act could stifle research on fentanyl-related substances during a time of high drug overdoses and eliminate the use of potentially therapeutic fentanyl-related substances.

Public health, criminal justice reform and civil rights organizations have joined in calls to not pass the bill—urging lawmakers to instead invest in public health solutions to mitigate the harms of illicit fentanyl.

Chief Critic

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) said during a floor debate that the U.S. could not incarcerate its way out of a public health crisis. “The American people deserve bipartisan solutions that address both public safety and public health,” he said. “This bill fails on both fronts and simply continues the status quo, allowing opioid use disorder and the overdose crisis to continue to devastate American families across the nation.”

What To Watch For

The measure must still be voted on by the Democratic-controlled Senate and be signed by Biden, whose administration backs the bill, to become law—though it is unclear when the vote will take place.

Big Number

More than 106,000. That’s how many people in the U.S. died from drug-involved overdose in 2021, according to the CDC.

Key Background

Fentanyl is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for medical use and is a Schedule II drug, indicating it has a high potential for abuse but still could potentially serve medical purposes. The drug can be used to treat severe pain from cancer, trauma or surgery among other things, according to the CDC. Fentanyl made and distributed illegally and other illegally made synthetic opioids have been increasingly found in the drug supply in the course of the past decade, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which also noted that people both knowingly and unknowingly consume fentanyl when it is mixed with or sold as other drugs, and because of fentanyl’s potency, a lethal dose can be very small. According to a 2022 DEA report, illegal fentanyl produced in foreign secret laboratories and trafficked into the U.S. is primarily responsible for fueling the ongoing opioid crisis.


Republicans have blamed high rates of drug overdoses on immigrants and what they claim are loose border policies supported by the Biden Administration—though critics say this oversimplifies the problem. “Most fentanyl is seized at legal border crossings smuggled in all sorts of cargo, it is not carried on the backs of migrants,” Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, told PolitiFact contributor Tom Kertscher. “Drug traffickers deal with professionals, not amateurs, and they prefer U.S. citizens.” The White House has considered illegal fentanyl-related substances as a major source of overdoses, a reason why the HALT Fentanyl Act has received its support. U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized nearly 240,000 pounds of illicit drugs at the border from January 2022 through December 2022.

Further Reading

Dozens of Democrats join GOP in passing bill on fentanyl-related drug penalties (The Hill)

House passes HALT fentanyl act (NBC NonStop Local)

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Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden is a news writer for LinkDaddy News. She writes health, sport, tech, and more. Some of her favorite topics include the latest trends in fitness and wellness, the best ways to use technology to improve your life, and the latest developments in medical research.

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