Schakowsky Votes No On S. 3201

January 29, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, a Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Chair of the Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, made the following statement after the House passed S. 3201, the Temporary Reauthorization and Study of the Emergency Schedule of Fentanyl Analogues Act:

“The number of overdoses and deaths related to fentanyl have skyrocketed in recent years. We are facing a public health crisis. However, I voted against S. 3201 because the bill has serious criminal justice implications. Furthermore, the emergency scheduling of fentanyl and similar substances as Schedule-1 drugs has not adequately decreased those deaths over the past two years.

“We cannot forget our history and what happened to communities of color during the failed war on drugs. We cannot forget that classifying a substance as a Schedule-1 drug comes with harsh mandatory minimum sentences, that even the lowest quantities can trigger. We cannot forget that over 60 percent of people federally charged for drug possession and over 95 percent of people charged with drug trafficking receive a prison sentence. And we cannot forget that over 78 percent of people charged with a fentanyl trafficking offense are people of color.

“I believe we must work together to prioritize a public health solution to the fentanyl epidemic instead of only a punitive one. Study after study shows that criminal justice approaches to these problems disproportionately impact people of color and do not reduce crime. Additionally, this sort of emergency scheduling fails to stop the masterminds and criminal organizations who continue to bring fentanyl into our communities. We cannot continue locking people up for low-level drug offenses, and I am deeply concerned that this reauthorization, even while temporary, may have that unintended consequence.  I will work with my colleagues to seek comprehensive criminal justice reform while also prioritizing the fentanyl epidemic as the public health crisis that it is.”