Casten Statement on Voting Against Expanding Mandatory Minimums and Calling for Solutions on Comprehensive Substance Use Disorder Treatment

January 29, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Sean Casten issued the following statement after voting against S. 3201, the Temporary Reauthorization and Study of the Emergency Scheduling of Fentanyl Analogues Act, which would extend the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) temporary order for fentanyl related substances, which affords significant mandatory minimum prison time and provides resources for the prosecution and funding for those who transport trace amounts of this deadly drug.

Casten said, “We are in the midst of a national opioid epidemic, and we desperately need to make sure that those who suffer from addiction get the treatment and rehabilitation they need.  And while this bill was certainly ‘tough on drugs,' it is not smart on drugs. Addiction is a disease. And yet, for decades we have treated it as a crime. Rather than giving people the treatment they need, we spend money to put them into prisons, wasting finite resources without ever addressing the root cause. 

“But in tackling this crisis, we must learn from the mistakes of our past: The War on Drugs was a failure. It not only failed to stem the tide of drug abuse and addiction, it kicked off the mass incarceration of people of color we still wrestle with today. The enforcement against the sale of fentanyl analogues is no different. Most of the arrests made under the DEA’s emergency scheduling are against low-level dealers and people of color, the vast majority of whom aren’t even aware they’re carrying a fentanyl analogue. It is time to be smarter. It is time to recognize that the best way to cut the demand for addictive substances is not by reducing the supply. It didn’t work during prohibition, and it isn’t working now. 

"Rather than focusing on locking up low-level dealers, the federal government must put its full weight behind interventions that will actually put an end to drug addiction. I look forward to working with my colleagues to develop smarter, patient-focused solutions to the opioid epidemic and hope that the passage of this bill, in spite of my vote today, doesn’t preclude the desperate need for a more thoughtful and evidenced-based approach.”