State AGs ask Congress to repeal law that ‘hamstrung’ DEA’s opioids fight
Nearly every state attorney general in the country wants Congress to repeal a 2016 law that reportedly made it “virtually impossible” for the Drug Enforcement Administration to suspend orders of narcotics that could fall into the hands of corrupt doctors or illicit pharmacies.
In a letter to congressional leaders, 44 AGs said the law is a “step backward” in the fight against the prescription painkiller and opioids epidemic that is killing tens of thousands of Americans each year.
“The standards set by the law hinder law enforcement’s authority to control excessive amounts of opioids flooding the market. The state and federal government need to equip our law enforcement partners with the necessary tools to go after those responsible for fueling the epidemic,” said Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, who spearheaded the bipartisan effort.
Their pleas mirror entreaties from lawmakers in parts of the country that are reeling from the opioids epidemic, including Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who face re-election in red states next year.
Though it breezed through Congress, many lawmakers now say they didn’t realize the law raised the threshold for freezing opioid shipments, while allowing companies to take corrective action before facing punishment for doling out suspicious orders.
Earlier this year, a high-profile report by the Washington Post and CBS’s “60 Minutes” said the industry-friendly lawmakers pushed the law over the concerns of whistleblowers within the DEA.
Mr. Hunter highlighted criticism from DEA Chief Administrative Law Judge John J. Mulrooney, II, who said the process is “is akin to a state legislature mandating law enforcement authorities allow shoplifting suspects caught in the act to outline how they intend to replace purloined items on store shelves, or allow bank robbers to round up and return ink-stained money and agree not to rob any more banks.”