John Katko

07/21/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/21/2021 10:26

As Overdoses Skyrocket in Central New York, Rep. Katko Reintroduces Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Stop Inflow of Toxic Synthetic Drugs

WASHINGTON - U.S Rep. John Katko (NY-24) today reintroduced the Stop the Importation and Manufacturing of Synthetic Analogues (SIMSA) Act, bicameral, bipartisan legislation to crack down on the influx of toxic synthetic drugs, such as fentanyl, a potent and deadly synthetic drug. Rep. Katko introduced this legislation as new data in Central New York and nationwide suggests the synthetic drug crisis, which has long plagued local communities, is dramatically worsening. The legislation would allow for the temporary regulation of substances substantially similar to controlled drugs while more time-consuming testing, research and analysis can be performed.

Rep. Katko reintroduced the SIMSA Act alongside U.S. Kathleen Rice (D, NY-4). Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH).

Existing laws prohibit the unauthorized use of certain specific controlled substances. However, illicit drug makers and importers are circumventing those laws by altering a single atom or molecule of a controlled drug to create a new, yet significantly similar substance, which has not yet been outlawed. This allows bad actors to make, market, and move substances - often originally imported from China or Mexico - that are intended to have the same effect as controlled drugs outside the reach of existing law. Under the current drug scheduling system, uncontrolled substances must first be subject to a time-consuming analysis before being permanently regulated or outlawed.

The legislation allows substances to be temporarily or permanently added to a new category of controlled substances, known as Schedule A, if their chemical structure is substantially similar to an existing controlled substance and they are expected to have the same or greater effect on the human body. This will allow for a more rapid control of drugs designed to be used in the same illicit manner as already-regulated or outlawed drugs. The legislation applies existing criminal penalties for manufacturers, importers, and exporters of Schedule A substances, and includes provisions to ensure that legitimate research on substances placed on Schedule A can still be undertaken.

'Fueled by the proliferation of synthetic drugs like fentanyl, newly released data from the CDC found that drug-overdose related deaths surged by nearly 30% in 2020,' said Rep. Katko. 'Locally, in the first quarter of 2021, Onondaga County reported 47 opioid deaths, with 45 of those deaths involving fentanyl, a potent and deadly synthetic drug.'

He continued, 'Unfortunately, Central New Yorkers are all too familiar with the devastation caused by heroin and deadly synthetic drugs. That's why, in addition to expanding substance use disorder treatment options, we need to ensure law enforcement is fully equipped to stop the inflow of these toxic drugs. With this bipartisan, bicameral legislation, law enforcement will be able to expeditiously schedule new synthetic drugs under the Controlled Substances Act, so that we can crack down on international drug traffickers and prevent these dangerous drugs from reaching our communities.'

The legislation is supported by the National Association of Police Organizations, the National District Attorneys Association, Drug Free America Foundation, Save Our Society From Drugs, The Fraternal Order of Police, the National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys and the Major Cities Chiefs Association.

Since coming to Congress, Rep. Katko has worked to address the heroin and synthetic drug epidemic by passing legislation to crack down on international drug trafficking and leading efforts to expand treatment options for those suffering from substance use disorder. Now, as Ranking Member on the House Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Katko is continuing this work and leading new efforts to staunch the flow of deadly drugs from Mexico and China.