Opioids

Opioid Panic Infects Defense Spending Bill

New Hampshire senator wants to increase federal penalties.

|

Kelly Ayotte
Public Domain / United States Senate

All those libertarians in New Hampshire need to get to work. One of their senators is attempting to actually increase federal drug penalties.

New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte is attempting to amend the National Defense Authorization Act (the military spending bill) to reduce the threshold by which mandatory minimum penalties are triggered for possession of opioid drugs like fentanyl, which has been blamed for Prince's recent death.

Ayotte and her office are selling these amendments as targeting traffickers. From Roll Call:

"Though the DEA estimates that fentanyl is up to 50 times more powerful than heroin, the penalties for trafficking in the two drugs are significantly different," said Chloe Rockow, Ayotte's spokeswoman. "With support from New Hampshire law enforcement, Senator Ayotte introduced legislation — and this amendment — to ensure that the penalty for trafficking in fentanyl reflects the deadliness of that substance."

But this argument is a little strange, because what the amendments actually do is seriously decrease the amount of drugs a person must have on them in order to trigger a five- or 10-year mandatory minimum sentence. While the law being amended is specifically focused on punishment for possession of drugs with intent "manufacture, distribute, or dispense," dropping the thresholds (in two cases from 10 grams to half a gram) increases the likelihood that the law will be misused to imprison those who are actually just addicts, or just low-level people in the chain. This is not an amendment about finding new ways to catch drug kingpins.

And also, despite these claims that opioids are so much more powerful than heroin, Jacob Sullum recently noted that the rise in deaths related to opioid overdoses are not quite how they appear:

Despite the decline in use, opioid-related deaths reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continued to rise through 2014, when there were 29,467, a record number. An overwhelming majority of such deaths—more than nine out of 10, according to data from New York City—involve mixtures of opioids with other drugs rather than straightforward overdoses.

That pattern, illustrated by the untimely ends of celebrities ranging from Janis Joplin to Philip Seymour Hoffman, suggests that the most effective way to prevent opioid-related deaths is to discourage people from combining painkillers or heroin with other drugs, especially depressants such as alcohol and benzodiazepines. It also suggests that the inherent deadliness of opioids has been greatly exaggerated.

And Ayotte's amendments aren't the only effort to transform opioid panic into new federal punishments. The Sentencing Reform Corrections Act, which is intended to reduce the number of people in federal prison given mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related crimes, also has a new addition that enhances the sentences by up to five years for drug crimes related to the opioid fentanyl.

NEXT: Andrew Cuomo's Executive Order on Israel Boycott Is Brazenly Autocratic

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte is attempting to amend the National Defense Authorization Act (the military spending bill) to reduce the threshold by which mandatory minimum penalties are triggered for possession of opioid drugs like fentanyl, which has been blamed for Prince’s recent death.

    Fuck this cunt.

    1. Yep — and don’t forget she’s also one of the co-sponsors of a bill that would further compromise the presumption of innocence and due process rights in campus sexual assault proceedings:

      http://newbostonpost.com/2016/…..ault-bill/

    2. SILF

  2. Prince died of an opioid overdose. You’re going to call this a “panic”?

    1. A Princely panic, Paul.

      1. Perfectly postulated.

      2. Prince Paul is very calm.

    2. We need Congress to do something because … interstate commerce!

  3. Vice ran a piece on the opiod epidemic. They had a dealer talking about cutting heroin with various substances, surprisingly opiods like fentanyl are on the list, even though fentanyl is much more expensive than heroin, and likely to cause overdoses.

    He said that dealers will cut with fentanyl specifically because it causes overdoses…. which perversely serve as a type of advertising for the potency of their product.

    1. I want to by my drugs at Target. Not Walmart cheap, but also not Macy’s expensive.

    2. Almost all the harm caused by opioids are due to them being illegal. It was easy to pretend that heroin, meth, PCP, pot, etc. were dangerous because there were almost no other uses outside recreational. But opioids are safely used by millions of people every single day. So if a bunch of people are dying when they are illegally using opioids, the illegality must be a huge contributor.

    3. drugs are soooo evilthey make killing your customers a good business model

  4. That pattern, illustrated by the untimely ends of celebrities ranging from Janis Joplin to Philip Seymour Hoffman, suggests that the most effective way to prevent opioid-related deaths is to discourage people from combining painkillers or heroin with other drugs

    Or we could enact common-sense celebrity control. She must be in the pocket of Big Hollywood.

  5. If this is such a great idea, why does it have to be shoehorned into completely unrelated legislation that is guaranteed to pass?

    1. For the children, drugs are bad, mmkay?

    2. It’s simple: to appeal to the drooling anus voters in NH that constantly whine for somebody to “do something” about the herion “epidemic” up around these parts. It’s an election year and the DNC is pushing tons of money into this particular election campaign to try to unseat her, though I am sure that Ms. Ayotte is quite sincere about wanting to “do something” to stamp out the “epidemic.”

      1. From a cynical point of view, I would say that this is a manoeuvre that her competitor simply does not have access to on a popular regional issue.

  6. “Live Free or Meh”

    1. Oops! You dropped your tea.

  7. That’s worked great so far! What an idiot.

  8. Or you could legalize the stuff so buyers will be getting a known commodity which would certainly cut down the number of ODs. Then again, if you cant use a “crisis” to chuck more people in the clink, for their own good of course, what’s the point of being a politician?

    1. A sinecure at an NGO somewhere after you get caught blowing a tranny hooker?

    2. Finally, the “L” word. Up until the early 20th century, drugs such as opium and cocaine were legal and a fraction of the drug problem we have today. Many people wasted their lives in a stupor, mainly from alcohol, but drugs didn’t destroy entire inner city communities as they have done more recently. The Controlled Substances Act may have killed more people than the drugs themselves would have in a legal market.

    3. Grinch, fentanyl is quite legal. I will admit that it is a very poor choice to abuse it, because it will kill an opioid naive person pretty reliably. It is so strong that I honestly don’t see how people stay awake to enjoy it.

      I give it in clinical settings almost every day. It’s nothing to fuck with. People get pretty high for a minute and then kind of nod off.

      1. So it should be sold at Safeway in a combo pack with Narcan, ideally.

      2. I want a new drug – one that won’t make me sick,
        One that won’t make me crash my car, or make me feel three feet thick.
        I want a new drug – one that won’t hurt my head,
        One that won’t make my mouth too dry, or make my eyes too red.

        1. FDA made it Schedule I. All drugs are bad, mmm’kay?

        2. Sounds like some Adderall with a Valium or two thrown in to take the edge off would be just the ticket for you.

      3. I had some administered to me in a hospital once after I came in with acute abdominal pain. Following the fentanyl, there was no more pain only peace and calm. It was unforgettable.

        There’s a day, far, far, in the future, when civilization will learn to administer this in safe, reliable doses for occasional use and people will just be happy and nothing else will happen.

        1. just waiting on the nothing else will happen part, then?

  9. Today’s National Review has an article about how Trump’s nomination makes Ayotte’s reelection more complicated. My reaction before reading this was “who cares?”. Now it’s “good”. One of those real-life Rinos you hear so much about.

    1. I wouldn’t call Ayotte a RINO. She’s a pretty standard “tough on crime” but otherwise moderate Republican.

      1. I think those are the Rinos – a a bit of symbolic toughness, followed by much compromise on spending.

  10. Ayotte was endorsed by John McCain, Sarah Palin, John Thune, Tom Coburn, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour, and Rick Santorum.

    I could have guessed I wasn’t going to like her just from that.

    1. A-fucking-men. When a murder of cowards, fools, senile dotards, and moral crusaders endorse you, it’s time to examine your life.

      1. Do you think her opponent’s endorsers will be any better?

  11. I know this may make me a bad person, but I sincerely wish that opioid panic exploiters develop bowel or bone cancer, and are denied effective pain relief due to laws they helped pass or enforce. Their physician being unwilling to prescribed a dose that works because lawmakers and drug warriors refuse to acknowledge that physical tolerance is an inevitable side effect of opioid therapy would be great justice.

    Of course, we know that laws are for little people, not the king’s men.

    1. You are not a bad person. You are, in fact, demonstrating an admirable degree of mercy.

      When I rise to power, they will get what they truly deserve… the boats!

      1. I described that to a friend a while back when you linked it. She read the wiki and said it gave her nightmares. It’s a creative torture. Brutal AND disgusting.

  12. The party of small government.

    1. A small government party.

  13. Ayotte is attempting to amend the National Defense Authorization Act

    What?! Not the fucking ACA?

  14. Anthony Bourdain was in Maine, and did a sidebar on Heron in rural area. He talked to a narc cop and a paid informant and everyone seemed shocked that H was so up and coming. It was like the DEA crackdown on pain doctors was completely unrelated or something.
    I started yelling at the screen and my wife got mad. We didn’t watch the rest of the episode.

    1. Anthony Bourdain was in Maine, and did a sidebar on Heron in rural area.

      Tastes like chicken?

      1. I imagine it would be gamey and rich, much like swan.

    2. Was that for Parts Unknown or something else? I recall him having a substantial amount on the topic – almost the whole episode – in Massachusetts.

      1. I may have my New England M states crossed. I came in late and my wife turned it off once I started yelling at the TV.

      2. Pretty sure it was. It was basically a revisit to the place that most of Kitchen Confidential took place.

      3. Pretty sure it was. It was basically a revisit to the place that most of Kitchen Confidential took place.

      4. MA, not ME. Bourdain portrayed this as a white, middle income problem, but it’s odd that he chose Greenfield, which is a quaint old mill town. Of course, that means there is no work either. Either way, legalization and regulation would take the profit out of it, and perhaps make it a bit safer.

  15. Heroin, dammit. No birds were involved in the segment.

    1. You stumbled onto some choice hip-hop lingo

      1. Gee, I’m hipper than I thought.

  16. Are gangsters of a darker pigment coming up to New Hampshire and selling the Dope and making white women pregnant?

    1. Don’t forget the spread of jazz music.

  17. I mourn Prince’s death, for “every man’s death diminishes me.”

    Plus he was thoughtless to overdose on drugs, thereby giving ammunition to prohibitionist types.

    If a celebrity killed himself/herself from overspending, or in despair caused by high taxes, would this lead Congress to cut taxes or spending?

    1. What if a celebrity gets killed by a drone?

  18. I am totally shocked that all the recent rounds of opiate pants shitting has led to this.

  19. I’ve made $64,000 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student. Im using an online business opportunity I heard about and I’ve made such great money. It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I found out about it. Heres what I do,

    ???????? http://Usatoday.nypost55.com

  20. Man, I’ve had it up to here with the hysteria surrounding this so-called “epidemic.” Fuck Kelly Ayotte.

  21. My dad was on the fentanyl patch and it messed with his head so bad he went to morphine.

  22. The concept of “inherently deadly” contravenes basic medical understanding.

  23. RE: Opioid Panic Infects Defense Spending Bill
    New Hampshire senator wants to increase federal penalties.

    The New Hampshire senators is doing what is right.
    You can’t have a huge prison population without huge convicts swelling the prisons.
    How else is our socialist slavers going to round up and control the unwashed masses?

  24. I stumbled across this article from 2004 on Slate of all places-

    http://www.slate.com/articles/…..ddict.html

    But looking at the article below it, it seems they have changed their minds and have decided to freak out.

  25. this is why i won’t vote for a woman

  26. opioids when consumed with depressants become fatal. This combination has caused many lives. We need to pass the bills which will grab the kingpins of drug trafficking.

  27. Check out this article about the present state of bills around the US pertaining to the War on Drugs and another overview of the issue. It really gives context to the current state of this war in US legislation.
    http://bit.ly/28YHQJR

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.