EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A bipartisan group of lawmakers has reintroduced a bill to target fentanyl-related substances for enhanced enforcement.

The Save America from the Fentanyl Emergency (SAFE) Act would designate so-called fentanyl “analogues” as Schedule 1 drugs with the highest risk of abuse. Some of these substances include carfentanil, an animal tranquilizer 100 times more potent than fentanyl.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has been reporting overdose deaths linked to carfentanil since 2016. Drug dealers have been known to pass off the drug as heroin to customers, according to the DEA.

“Fentanyl is being smuggled through our southern border at record levels, leaving no community in America untouched,” said U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas. “If fentanyl analogues are permanently scheduled as a Schedule 1 drug, it will help give our men and women in blue and green the proper tools to get this deadly drug off the street.”

Congress last year temporarily approved the Schedule 1 designation as part of the federal budget compromise. The designation expires in 2024. Under Schedule 1, the penalties for possession of 10 grams or more of fentanyl analogues carry a minimum penalty of 20 years to life in prison if death or serious injury occurs.

Other drugs targeted include furanylfentanyl, an opioid analgesic often sold as a “designer drug” meant to mimic de effects of banned substances. Furanyfentanyl is one-fifth as potent as fentanyl, according to health experts.

Gonzales is a co-sponsor of the bill along with U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, D-New Hampshire, and U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Washington.

“It remains clear that we must do more to confront the opioid crisis, stop the trafficking of fentanyl and its analogues, and support people suffering from substance use disorder,” Pappas said. “Permanently scheduling deadly fentanyl analogues is an essential step that will ensure law enforcement retains an important tool to keep our communities safe and hold traffickers accountable for the harm they have caused.”

CBP graphic of fentanyl seizures at the Southwest border.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection border agents and port officers seized more than 6 tons of fentanyl along the Southwest border in fiscal year 2022.  That’s almost three times as much as they did in 2020, with an additional 3.25 tons of fentanyl seized just in the past three months.

And it’s not just border agents coming across fentanyl in the Southwest. Sahuarita, Arizona, police officers a week ago seized 100 pounds of fentanyl near two trains while responding to reports of a suspicious man carrying a duffle bag. The man was not found but four abandoned duffle bags held the fentanyl, 80 pounds of methamphetamines and 7.6 pounds of heroin, Tucson.com reported.

In addition to further criminalizing fentanyl analogues, the SAFE Act requires the Department of Justice to list substances that meet such classification, calls for more scientific research on these analogues and for a report four years from enactment analyzing the impact of the legislation.