Washington D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith released the following statement on the opioid related legislation considered by the House of Representatives:
“Our nation is in the midst of a heroin and prescription drug abuse epidemic, resulting in the deaths of thousands, and taking a toll on the health and safety of many Americans and their families. Since 2000, overdose deaths have increased 137% – costing more than 60 lives a day. Congress must act to stem this nation-wide epidemic by investing in prevention, treatment, recovery, and efforts to prevent the smuggling of drugs across our borders. Addiction is a brain disease, and given the medical and technological advancements over the years, we now have a better understanding of the mental and physical aspects of drug abuse; and can work to increase access to recovery services that can turn the tide of this fight. The debate on the House Floor this week should have been much more comprehensive but I support the steps we have taken to combat the drug abuse epidemic and I will continue to support efforts to address inequities in our society.
“While I am deeply disappointed that the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act and its related bills do not provide the full funding necessary to confront the rising numbers of overdose death and addiction, I believe these legislative efforts will begin to address the fight against opioid and heroin abuse. It is my hope that the conversations my colleagues and I had on the piecemealed legislation that came to the House Floor this week will be the beginning of a much larger fight to secure the resources and funding necessary to meaningfully address this crisis and treat the overdose and addiction affecting our communities.
“The scourge of this disease is not limited to single cities or groups. As Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, I have personally fought for the wellbeing of our service members and requested critical support in efforts to address opioid misuse, abuse, addiction, overdose and death. I submitted an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, directing the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to Congress on the DOD’s efforts to prevent, educate and treat prescription opioid drug abuse.
“While the current crisis we face in opioid abuse is extraordinarily important, we must remain cognizant of the unfinished business in the sentencing disparity between crack vs. powder cocaine. That these are essentially two separate forms of the same substance remains a significant issue that cannot be overlooked. In 2010, I supported the passage of S. 1789, the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which reduced the sentencing disparity between offenses for crack and powder cocaine from 100:1 to 18:1. It also eliminated the mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession offenses. The 100:1 ratio was scientifically unjustifiable, and resulted in individuals of color being targeted and jailed with disproportionately longer sentences.
“In the current Congress, I am a supporter of a number of bills that work to correct this historical inequity. H.R. 1252, the Fair Sentencing Clarification Act, would make the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 retroactively applicable to federal prisoners serving mandatory minimum sentences for crack cocaine. I also co-sponsored H.R. 1255, the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act, which would eliminate disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine sentences entirely – creating a 1:1 ratio. This legislation would combat inequities in our justice system, requiring that the same amount of each drug triggers the same sentence.
“We know that in order to pursue true racial justice we must re-examine the role of our justice system as the spearhead against the disease of drug addiction, challenging long-held assumptions and improving our system to emphasis prevention. Rather than focus on incarcerating Americans who suffer from addiction, we must focus on education, access to treatment services, and rehabilitation into society. By doing so, we recognize the evidence-based fact that remanding these individuals to jail and prison is structurally, as well as morally, wrong. I applaud my colleagues for the bipartisan work accomplished this week to start addressing the issues of opioid prescription and heroin drug abuse, but know there is much more work that still needs to be done.”