By Millete Millington
Published: November 8th, 2017
The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act, passed by Congress last April, undermines the ability of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to regulate the drug industry. The bill, as an amendment to the Controlled Substances Act, defines “imminent danger to the public health and safety” to mean an immediate threat of death, serious bodily harm, or abuse of a controlled substance due to a registrant’s failure to maintain effective controls against diversion. This interferes with the DEA’s responsibility involving “coordination and cooperation with federal, state, and local agencies, and with foreign governments, in programs designed to reduce the availability of illicit abuse-type drugs on the United States market through non-enforcement methods such as crop eradication, crop substitution, and training of foreign officials,” according to Quora.com.
One of the core supporters of this bill, Tom Marino, was chosen by President Trump to be the next “drug czar” of this country. However, an investigation conducted by the Washington Post and 60 Minutes on Oct. 15 of this year led Marino to step down. The investigation found that a bill sponsored by Marino and pushed by the drug industry helped pump more painkillers into parts of the country that were already in the middle of the opioid crisis, according to an interview conducted by Kelly McEvers of NPR with Scott Higham, who helped write the Washington Post story on this subject.
According to the Washington Post, members of Congress, along with the major drug distributors of the country, “prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills.” When this bill was passed, our country was at the height of the deadliest drug epidemic in its history. At that time, the war on opioids “claimed 200,000 lives, more than three times the number of U.S. military deaths in the Vietnam War. Overdose deaths continue to rise,” the Washington Post also says.
I think that the reason for such a bill being passed in the height of a crisis like this is because “President Trump, who made drug abuse a cornerstone of his 2016 campaign, insists that he takes this issue seriously,” according to an article published by The Week almost three weeks ago. President Trump could have chosen Marino who pushed for the bill, after he promised that he would take care of the drug problem. It’s possible he felt that something should be done about it, similar to Trump. Trump wants to show people that he’s taking action on a life-threatening issue.
In terms of how much money was put into Congress members’ campaigns for the passing of the bill, “This was not a gross lapse of judgment on the part of these public servants. It was the bought-and-paid-for result of relentless lobbying by the pharmaceutical industry — $106 million in total was spent on this bill and related legislation between 2014 and 2016 alone,” according the article published about three weeks ago by The Week. I think that the amount of money spent on passing this bill should go towards bills in Congress that will actually benefit Americans for the better.
How exactly should we hold the DEA and the U.S. Department of Justice accountable for passing such a dangerous bill? Those specific members of the DEA who had knowledge of intel, depending on the level of importance and how much they knew, should, in my opinion, get a suspension from their positions for an appointed time. The Dept. of Justice members should be punished with suspension as well. I do think that there is hope for the opioid crisis, but it is not going to happen in a week or a month; it will take years. There should be laws in place that will make the lives of Americans safer and better protected.