Tuesday March 28th, 2023

Cortez Masto, Grassley & Hassan Introduce Legislation to Crack Down on Xylazine

Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation Would Make Illicit Use of Xylazine a Schedule III Controlled Drug While Protecting Access for Veterinarians

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) are introducing the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act, bipartisan, bicameral legislation 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) to crack down on and schedule the highly dangerous sedative causing fatal overdoses nationwide. Xylazine, also known as “tranq,” is an easily accessible veterinary tranquilizer that is being used as a low-cost cutting agent, and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) recently reported 23% of fentanyl powder contained it in 2022. Xylazine causes depressed breathing and heart rate, unconsciousness, necrosis, and even death, and naloxone does not reverse its effects because it is not an opioid.

Despite alarming reports about the rise of xylazine, which has been called a “zombie drug,” federal, state, and local law enforcement do not have the tools necessary to effectively track it or crack down on traffickers using it to increase their profits.

The Combating Illicit Xylazine Act would address this gap in federal law by: 

  • Classifying its illicit use under Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act; 
  • Enabling the DEA to track its manufacturing to ensure it is not diverted to the illicit market;
  • Requiring a report on prevalence, risks, and recommendations to best regulate illicit use of xylazine;
  • Ensuring all salts and isomers of xylazine are covered when restricting its illicit use;
  • Declaring xylazine an emerging drug threat.

“Drug traffickers are going to great lengths to pad their profits with dangerous drugs like tranq, and we need to empower law enforcement to crack down on its spread in our communities,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “This bipartisan legislation will ensure the DEA and local law enforcement have the tools they need to get xylazine off our streets while protecting its important use as a veterinary tranquilizer.”

“Drug overdoses remain unacceptably high as cartels and traffickers continue to flood our nation with deadly and ever-changing poison. We cannot successfully prevent these tragedies with one hand tied behind our back. We must keep pace with the evolving tactics of the drug trade. This bill recognizes the dangers posed by the increasing abuse of animal tranquilizers by drug traffickers, and provides new tools to combat this deadly trend. It also ensures that folks like veterinarians, ranchers and cattlemen can continue to access these drugs for bona fide animal treatment,” said Senator Grassley.

“Xylazine is hurting New Hampshire communities and contributing to the alarming rate of overdose deaths in our state,” said Senator Hassan. “Our bipartisan bill would take important steps to combat the abuse of xylazine by giving law enforcement more authority to crack down on the illicit distribution of this drug, including by putting stiffer penalties on criminals who are spreading this drug to our communities. My colleagues on both sides of the aisle are seeing the impact of this deadly drug in their states, and we will continue working together to move this critical bill forward.”

Xylazine is essential in veterinary medicine with large animals, and while this legislation will help law enforcement crack down on its illicit use, it will also protect access for veterinarians, farmers, cattlemen, and ranchers by protecting the veterinary medicine use of xylazine. 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, 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 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.), and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

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, as well as critical legislation to address the opioid epidemic.

“The recent rise in the illicit use of the combination of xylazine and fentanyl threatens the health and safety of every community. This toxic brew of drugs makes fentanyl, which has taken thousands of lives in California and around the country each year, not just cheaper but deadlier and more addictive,” said Representative Panetta. “Although xylazine has legitimate uses in agriculture, we need to prevent it from being misused on the streets. My bipartisan, bicameral legislation will provide federal and local law enforcement with better tools to track xylazine, prevent its misuse, prosecute and penalize its illegal traffickers, and, ultimately, help protect our families and communities from the scourge of fentanyl.”

“The drug crisis in our country is becoming more tragic by the day, with drug traffickers turning to veterinary tranquilizer to make drugs more addictive—and more deadly,” said Congressman Pfluger. “I am proud to work with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to crack down on illicit uses of Xylazine while protecting its critical purpose in agriculture and veterinary medicine.”

“Our 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 Congressman Bilirakis. “At the same time, we must ensure that those veterinarians who are using xylazine for legitimate purposes have the ability to continue doing so. Our legislation strikes that right balance.”

“Families across Colorado know the true devastation of the opioid epidemic, which has taken too many lives across our country. Ensuring that we add Xylazine, a deadly fentanyl adulterant, to the Controlled Substances Act is critical to saving lives,” said Congressman Buck. “This legislation – supported by both Republicans and Democrats in both chambers of Congress – will give officials the tools necessary to stop this drug before it can cause more damage without debilitating veterinarians and cattle producers who use the substance legally.”

“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 Congressman 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 fully supports this congressional effort to combat illicit xylazine,” said Dr. Lori Teller, American Veterinary Medical Association. “The proposed legislation will equip law enforcement with additional tools to stop xylazine trafficking. We urge Congress to pass the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act quickly as it strikes the right balance of protecting our communities while preserving veterinary access to this critically important animal drug.”

“Xylazine, a common pharmaceutical drug used in animals, has begun contributing to the opioid crisis that plagues our nation’s communities,” said Bill Johnson, Executive Director, National Association of Police Organizations. “A drug that is meant for sedation and anesthesia in horses and cows has followed the trend of fentanyl and is being reported as an additive to illicit drugs. This drug has serious and deadly consequences and there is currently no approved drug to reverse its effects on humans. The Combating Illicit Xylazine Act is calling for xylazine to be classified as a Schedule III drug and invoke penalties on those who choose to illicitly use and distribute the drug. We stand with Senators Cortez Masto, Grassley, Hassan, Risch, Shaheen, and Capito and applaud their efforts to save countless lives.”

The full text of the bill can be found HERE.



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