- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 18, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) - Rep. John Delaney, D-Potomac, announced Tuesday that he is co-sponsoring legislation to make it easier for the Drug Enforcement Administration to combat the opioid epidemic.

The bill, called the “Opioid Immediate Suspension Order Act of 2017,” was introduced Monday by Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Virginia. Four Democratic representatives, including Delaney, have co-sponsored the legislation, but no Republicans, according to Connolly’s office.

An April 2016 law modified the Controlled Substances Act to make it harder for the DEA to suspend a pharmaceutical distributor’s license, even if the attorney general saw “an imminent danger to the public health or safety.” This procedure is usually used to stop suspicious shipments of prescription drugs, a statement from Connolly said.

This new bill re-establishes the previous threshold for the DEA to take action, giving the organization the oversight power it had before the 2016 law passed.

“We absolutely have to restore the DEA’s ability to crack down on distributors who are flooding our communities with opioids,” Delaney said. “The opioid crisis has caused so much suffering in Maryland and it’s appalling that DEA authority was weakened…”

In Maryland, 418 people died from prescription opioid overdoses in 2016, and that number has steadily risen since 2012, according to statistics from the state’s Behavioral Health Administration. Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency for the opioid crisis in March, announcing $50 million for enforcement, prevention and treatment services over the next five years.

Delaney said the federal government needs to do more to combat the opioid crisis.

“In addition to passing this legislation to empower the DEA to go after bad actors, we need to give law enforcement the resources they need, invest in public health, protect people’s access to treatment, and hold those who are responsible for this crisis accountable,” he said.

President Trump said during a Monday press conference that he would declare a national emergency for the opioid epidemic next week.

The following day, Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pennsylvania, Trump’s nominee for drug czar, withdrew himself from consideration for the position. Marino was nominated last month to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy — and the fight against the opioid epidemic — but stepped down following a report by the Washington Post and “60 Minutes” on his support for a bill that weakened the DEA’s power.

“Now is not the time to tie DEA’s hands,” Connolly said in a statement. “We need to hold everyone along the supply chain accountable, from the pharmaceutical distributors, to the pharmacies, to the prescribers.”

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