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THURSDAY, MAY 1, 1986
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
SUBCOMMITTEE ON CRIME,
Washington, DC. The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10:20 a.m., in room 2237, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. William J. Hughes (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Present: Representatives Hughes, Smith, Staggers, McCollum, Lungren, Shaw, and Gekas.
Staff present: Hayden Gregory, counsel; Eric E. Sterling and Edward O'Connell, assistant counsel; Charlene Vanlier Heydinger, associate counsel; Phyllis Henderson, clerk.
Mr. HUGHES. The Subcommittee on Crime will come to order.
The Chair has received a request to cover this hearing in whole or in part by television broadcast, radio broadcast, still photography, or by other similar methods. In accordance with committee rule 5(a), permission will be granted unless there is an objection.
Is there objection? Hearing none, so ordered. Today the Subcommittee on Crime is continuing its examination of the problem of designer drugs. Two years ago, in the course of our examination of the diversion of controlled substances from medical purposes to the black market, we looked at the problem of designer drugs such as the fentanyl analogs, and MPPP, which were causing death and paralysis, particularly on the west coast.
In conjunction with the DEA, we developed an approach to the problem that allows the Drug Enforcement Administration to schedule these substances on a very short timeframe on an emergency basis. This process for temporary scheduling freed DEA from the usual time-consuming requirement of scientific study that is the basis for determining what drugs ought to be controlled and in what schedule they can most approximately be controlled.
Since the law became effective, as part of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, DEA has used the authority 5 times to control some 13 substances.
We have already obtained convictions of chemists who have manufactured drugs that have been controlled under this emergency authority. On December 2, last year, a chemist in Wilmington, DE, was arrested by DEA as he attempted to pick up more than a quarter of a million dollars as payment for fentanyl analogs. This man, a chemist with a major chemical company, was a dealer in schedule I drugs and sentenced to 18 years in prison. He had faced a maximum of 40 years in prison. The record of that case starkly
demonstrates that criminals who are making controlled substance analogs are well aware of the fact that many of these drugs are not yet controlled.
A California toxicologist says that the urine of some 10 percent of the addicts they have tested in that State have been positive for fentanyl analogs. At least 100 persons are known to have died of fentanyl analogs overdoses.
A neurologist in San Jose, CA, says that working with the Centers for Disease Control they have identified 400 persons who have been exposed to MPTP which causes Parkinsonism, an irreversible form of brain damage that is paralyzing. This doctor says that it is the tip of the iceberg. Seven of those persons, almost 2 percent of those known who are so severely ill, are permanently crippled and in danger of dying of the disease. Twenty of these persons were exposed, another 5 percent have mild symptoms of the disease. All of the young people exposed are at risk for developing Parkinson's symptoms. They are, as an investigator of the National Institutes of Health says, “walking time bombs.” And now we are seeing people who have used the drug 2 years ago beginning to exhibit symptoms. We are facing a potential public health crisis that may make our current drug abuse problems look mild.
Today, to further address this problem, we are considering a number of important legislative initiatives introduced by distinguished members of this particular subcommittee, Dan Lungren of California, Larry Smith of Florida, and Charlie Rangel of New York, the distinguished chairman of the Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control, have all introduced important measures; and a bill that was finally passed by the other body.
To find a solution, naturally we need to look at how the emergency scheduling authority is working and how we can do more to address this particular problem. Fortunately, some excellent factfinding has already been developed in this area. In fact, three different Senate committees held hearings on the problem just last year. The distinguished Senator from Florida, Lawton Chiles, chaired excellent hearings which produced an outstanding hearing record which has been very helpful and useful to us, and we are looking forward to hearing his testimony later this morning.
I am very pleased that we have a number of very knowledgeable and distinguished witnesses this morning, some of whom traveled a great distance to discuss with us this important issue and to help us build upon the work that has been done in the other body. We look forward to hearing the testimony this morning.
The Chair at this time recognizes the ranking Republican of Florida for an opening statement.
Mr. McCOLLUM. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Our efforts to ban illicit manufacture, distribution and use of controlled substance analogs can be one of the most important accomplishments of this subcommittee. If we act now and achieve the enactment of a new law in this Congress, we will help deflate this ballooning problem.
The administration proposal, H.R. 2977, was introduced on July 11, 1985, by my distinguished colleague, Mr. Lungren from California. Since Mr. Lungren is the original sponsor of this legislation and he represents a portion of the country which is inundated with these illicit drugs, I would like to yield the remaining time that I have for an opening statement to Mr. Lungren, with the permission of the chairman.
Mr. HUGHES. Permission granted. The gentleman from California, Mr. Lungren.
Mr. LUNGREN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
As the sponsor of the Designer Drug Enforcement Act, H.R. 2977, along with my colleagues, Mr. Fish, Mr. McCollum, and Mr. Gekas, I want to compliment you for having these hearings which I hope will lead to a prompt markup of this much needed legislation.
While the genesis of the designer drug phenomena had its origin in my own State of California, unfortunately, it has spread to other parts of the country as well. At relatively low prices these drugs threaten to stimulate a growing market for chemical escape. However, unlike the term used to describe them, there is nothing particularly chic about designer drugs. I might interject that in order to ensure that these substances are not in any way accorded a fashionable connotation that they don't deserve, those in law enforcement now characterize them as controlled substance analogs.
The sad fact is that people are dying because of their use. While official reports have identified as many as 78 fentanyl deaths since 1978, I feel that these figures may significantly understate the true death toll. Unless laboratory personnel specifically look for these analogs, unless they have appropriate equipment and experience, they are not able to identify many of them as the cause of death.
At the same time, I don't wish to suggest that we should rely solely on a death count as a measure of the threat that these drugs pose to our society. Mere statistics fail to express the misery perpetrated by contemporary Dr. Frankensteins who are transforming human beings into chemical zombies.
While the emergency scheduling provisions of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 have proven to be an important initial step, it is now clear that much more remains to be done. The need for further action arises from the fact that a case cannot be prosecuted until the substance is first controlled by the emergency schedule. It is, therefore, only after a new analog of the drug is discovered, after it is analyzed, and after it is then placed under emergency control that those who traffic in chemical death face any threat of criminal liability. In the meantime, they can peddle their poison with impunity.
The Designer Drug Enforcement Act closes this loophole between the production of these new analogs and the time they are placed on the Controlled Substances Act schedule. It does so by focusing on the manufacturing and distribution of these drugs. In other words, my bill avoids the pitfall of focusing on the substances themselves which can be readily modified in an infinite variety of ways. Our drug enforcement authorities would no longer be placed in the terrible position of playing a game of cat and mouse with underground chemists. The bill would provide penalties of up to 15 years imprisonment and fines of up to $250,000.
At the same time I would like to emphasize that the legislation that I have introduced would in no way infringe on legitimate manufacture and research activity. An exemption is specifically provided for manufacturing or distribution of a substance in conformity with the new drug approval process of the Federal Food and Cosmetic Act. Early stage clinical research activity is protected by reference to the exemption from the new drug approval requirement for investigational use. Also, nonclinical research and industrial applications would not be affected since they are not intended for human consumption. In short, this legislation is intended to nail the chemical witch doctors without placing any additional burden on the legitimate pharmaceutical industry.
Before closing, I would like to offer an additional concern which makes prompt legislation so important. It is only a matter of time before organized crime moves into this market. Rumors about mob involvement in Californians' production of such drugs are already circulating. With low front end investment requirements and the absence of transaction costs related to importing drugs from around the world, domestic production may pose irresistible financial incentives to the American criminal enterprise.
If we are to prevent controlled substance analogs from becoming the drug of the future, the time to act is now. It is my hope that, while our constituents perhaps are watching reruns of “Miami Vice” this summer, we will have provided real live enforcement authorities with the legislative framework equal to the grim challenge posed by these new drugs.
Mr. Chairman, I might say about 7 years ago when I was on a similar panel of this committee, this overall committee, at that time I raised a concern about PCP. I suggested that we ought to increase the penalties involved there. And another member of the panel, not a member of this panel presently, indicated that he hadn't heard of PCP, that it must be a California problem and he wondered why we needed a Federal response to it. At that time I lamented the fact that there wasn't better attention given to it and I said although it was then primarily a California experience, I feared that it would go around the country, as indeed it has.
Unfortunately, California is leading the way again in this tragic consequence, and I don't think the rest of the country is going to be safe. We need this legislation, and I would hope that we can do something fairly quickly.
Mr. Chairman, I do have a 6-minute film. I wonder if you want to view that now.
Mr. HUGHES. Let me take the gentleman from Florida next, his opening statement, and then we will come back to the film.
Mr. LUNGREN. I thank the chairman.
I request that my full statement in support of H.R. 3936 be inserted in the record, and I would like to make an opening statement.
Mr. HUGHES. Without objection, so ordered.
STATEMENT OF REP. LARRY SMITH OF FLORIDA
SUBCOIMITT EXCON CRIME
MAY 1, 1986
CONTROL DESIGNER DRUGS
Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the Subcommittee's having this hearing.
As you know, one part of my bill, H.R. 3936, would ban lesigner drugs.
This language is essentially identical to legislation already approved
by the other body.
I do not care which proposal we approve, but I want
a designer drug bill enacted into law this Session.
Despite law enforcement efforts to control illegal
source which often is beyond the reach of the law has emerged.
change the molecular structure of a legal drug or an illegal compound
to a drug which mimics the effects of heroin or other drugs.
"designers" of these dangerous substances can stay on
one step ahead of
the law by simply once again changing the molecular structure of the
drug to create a new and for the time being legal drug when the
previous analog has been identified and marked
as an illegal substance.
The effect of these drugs is not known by the designer, for, as stated
by the Miami Herald.
"the users are the guinea pigs."