You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Tennessee

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

U.S. Attorney Don Cochran Urges Congress To Extend Emergency Scheduling Of Fentanyl Analogues

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – January 28, 2020 – The emergency prohibition of fentanyl analogues expires on February 6 without congressional action.  Fentanyl and its analogues are responsible for thousands of overdose deaths in Tennessee and we are among the states with the highest number of overdose deaths in the nation.   Without action by Congress, my colleagues and I will not have the tools we need to protect Tennessee families from the onslaught of these extraordinarily dangerous substances. 

Initially originating from China in smaller quantities, Tennessee, like many states across our nation, has seen a transition in the source of fentanyl making its way into our communities.  In a dangerous turn of events, law enforcement officials are now intercepting load after load of Mexican cartel-produced fentanyl.  The cartels are using their established and prolific distribution networks to deliver fentanyl – a substance that is exponentially more dangerous than both methamphetamine and heroin. 

Just four days ago, officers with the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department recovered nearly 12 pounds of fentanyl from a vehicle travelling on an interstate near Downtown Nashville and earlier this month, more than ¼ pound of fentanyl was seized from a home in a Sumner County neighborhood.  This substance is so lethal that only a few grains can be deadly.  We continue to be very aggressive in prosecuting these cases and just today announced the indictments of nine  individuals in the Clarksville, Tennessee area who are charged in a conspiracy to distribute heroin/fentanyl.

According to recent data, by the end of the third quarter of 2019, the number of overdose deaths in Nashville had already escalated to make it the deadliest year on record with 337 deaths.  This is three times the number of overdose deaths just three years ago and the majority of these deaths involved fentanyl.  The number of instances by first responders of Narcan deployment to reverse the overdose effects is also escalating at an alarming rate.    We must take every available action to reverse this deadly epidemic and we must act now.

I am urging Congress to give us the tools we need to continue our efforts against the distribution of fentanyl and its analogues here in Tennessee.  This fight is far from over.  We need every tool we have to target this dangerous drug. Congress must take action immediately to extend the scheduling of these dangerous substances.

Background:  In an effort to combat this deadly drug epidemic, DEA issued a temporary emergency two-year order in February 2018 that made all fentanyl-related substances illegal.  Our country has seen a marked supply impact from DEA’s temporary scheduling of fentanyl-related substances during the past two years, with a 50 percent decrease in fentanyl-related substances encountered across the United States.  However, DEA’s emergency authority expires at midnight on February 6, 2020, unless Congress acts to extend it.

# # # # #

Updated January 28, 2020