Wednesday March 6th, 2024

Cortez Masto, Bipartisan Group of Senate and House Colleagues Call for Passage of Legislation to Crack Down on Xylazine, Highlight Growing Support for Bill 

Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation Would Make Xylazine a Schedule III Controlled Substance While Protecting Access for Veterinarians

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), along with Representatives Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.-19), August Pfluger (R-Texas-11), Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.-12), Ken Buck (R-Colo.-04), and Chris Pappas (D-N.H.-01) called for urgent passage of an updated version of their Combating Illicit Xylazine Act. Since its introduction, Cortez Masto’s bipartisan, bicameral legislation has gained 23 new cosponsors in the Senate and 88 in the House of Representatives, and it has undergone several legislative changes to strengthen the bill text and ensure it can become law.

Xylazine, also known as “tranq,” is an easily accessible veterinary tranquilizer that is being used as a low-cost cutting agent for fentanyl. Since it is not an opioid, its effects cannot be reversed by naloxone. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has designated fentanyl combined with xylazine as an “emerging threat.” Cortez Masto’s bipartisan legislation would schedule this dangerous drug and give law enforcement the tools they need to go after traffickers while protecting access for veterinarians, farmers, cattlemen, and ranchers who use xylazine to treat large animals. The bill is endorsed by 39 state attorneys general, major law enforcement organizations, and veterinary organizations.

“The number of overdose deaths caused by tranq is growing every day, and we need to get this dangerous drug off our streets right now,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “My updated legislation reflects months of work to strengthen the bill, grow its support, and ensure that law enforcement has the tools they need to crack down on xylazine while protecting its legitimate use in veterinary medicine. I’ll continue to work with my colleagues in the House and the Senate to pass this critical bill into law as soon as possible and keep our communities safe.”

The updated Combating Illicit Xylazine Act would:

  • Schedule xylazine as Schedule III illicit substance under the Controlled Substances Act; 
  • Ensure veterinarians, farmers, and ranchers can still use the drug for its intended purpose by creating a clear definition of “ultimate user” – someone lawfully permitted to possess a controlled substance for legitimate use;
  • Enable the DEA to track its manufacturing to ensure it is not diverted to the illicit market; and
  • Require a report on prevalence, risks, and recommendations regarding xylazine.

“The alarming uptick in illicit xylazine use is contributing to the national drug epidemic and driving up overdose deaths in communities across the country. Our laws must keep pace as the drug trade evolves,” Senator Grassley said. “Our bipartisan bill recognizes the lethal threat xylazine poses and provides law enforcement with tools to combat it, while ensuring veterinarians, ranchers and cattlemen can continue to access the drug for legitimate animal treatment.”

“Xylazine poses a major risk to Granite Staters and we must keep working to get it off the streets,” said Senator Hassan. “This bipartisan bill would strengthen penalties on xylazine traffickers and give law enforcement more tools to ensure that xylazine does not end up on the illicit market. I urge my colleagues in the House and the Senate to pass this bill that will help save lives.”

The Combating Illicit Xylazine Act is cosponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Katie Britt (R-Ala.), Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).

This legislation has been endorsed by the American Veterinary Medical Association, Nevada Cattlemen Association, National Association of Police Organizations, National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition, United States Deputy Sheriff’s Association, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, Nevada Veterinary Medical Association, Peace Officers Research Association of California, North American Meat Institute, Animal Health Institute, the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, and the Major Cities Chiefs Association.

“The rise of xylazine-adulterated fentanyl across the country demands urgent, proactive action from Congress to turn back the tide on this new phase of the opioid epidemic,” said Representative Panetta. “I am proud to have forged a bipartisan, bicameral path forward for the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act to ensure that law enforcement has the tools needed to stop the flow of illicit xylazine onto our streets while preserving its use for our agricultural community. Through this critical legislation, we will better track this deadly drug, prosecute those who traffic it into our communities, and protect families from this scourge.”

“Drug traffickers are using Xylazine, a veterinary tranquilizer, to make drugs more addictive—and deadly,” said Representative Pfluger. “I am proud to work with a bipartisan group of lawmakers in crafting balanced language to provide law enforcement with the tools they need to crack down on illicit uses of Xylazine while protecting its critical purpose in agriculture and veterinary medicine.”

“My goal is to save lives and to make sure law enforcement has the tools its needs to respond appropriately to those who are making these deadly concoctions that are killing so many of our neighbors,” said Representative Bilirakis. “At the same time, we must ensure that those veterinarians and cattlemen who are using xylazine for legitimate purposes have the ability to continue doing so. This compromise language strikes that right balance, and I’m grateful we can come together in a bipartisan, bicameral way to do so. Let’s do the right thing and pass this language into law as soon as possible.”

“I am proud to cosponsor the Combatting Illicit Xylazine Act to ensure that law enforcement have the tools and support they need to keep tranq off the streets,” said Representative Buck. “I hope that in doing so, many Americans will be saved from the deadly effects of misusing xylazine. By rescheduling this drug, law enforcement will be able to adequately apprehend and punish drug traffickers who deal this dangerous substance without regard for its significant human cost.”

“As we continue to see xylazine being mixed with fentanyl, heroin, and other deadly drugs, it’s critical we take action to crack down on illegal use,” said Representative Pappas. “This legislation would track the manufacture of xylazine, which is legally used as an animal tranquilizer, and ensure law enforcement has the resources needed to crack down on illegal drug traffickers. I hope that this legislation will be swiftly brought to the House floor for a vote, and I’ll continue working across the aisle, and alongside law enforcement and public safety experts, to craft comprehensive solutions that will help combat our ongoing addiction epidemic.”

“The AVMA strongly endorses the updated Combating Illicit Xylazine Act as it strikes the right balance of helping protect our communities from illicit xylazine while preserving veterinary access to this essential animal drug,” said Dr. Rena Carlson, President of the American Veterinary Medical Association. “Passage of this legislation would protect human safety, safeguard animal welfare, and reduce the risk of a potential supply disruption of legal xylazine. We greatly appreciate the Senate and House leads of the bill for recognizing the immediate need to address the public health threat posed by illicit xylazine and, at the same time, maintain access to legitimate xylazine for its critical uses in veterinary medicine.”

The updated text of the bill can be found here.

Senator Cortez Masto has been working to crack down on illicit drugs since she was first elected Attorney General, when she worked with Nevada’s Republican governor, law enforcement, and Mexican officials to combat the rise of methamphetamine manufacturing and cross-border drug trafficking. In the Senate, she has authored legislation to combat drug trafficking online that was signed into law, and passed critical legislation to address the opioid epidemic.



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