SPECIAL COVERAGE: 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500

DEA passes emergency act to make all forms of Fentanyl illegal

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – New efforts are underway in the war on drugs. A new federal law will make it more difficult for drug dealers to get away with selling Fentanyl.

The DEA passed an act, that when it takes effect, will make all forms of Fentanyl illegal.  Fentanyl used in hospitals and by doctors will still be legal.

The act comes on an emergency basis, which means the DEA found enough evidence that Fentanyl is extremely deadly and serves no real medical purpose.

"We’re seeing Fentanyl mixed in with our heroin. We’re seeing Fentanyl mixed in with our cocaine and we’re also seeing Fentanyl mixed in with our methamphetamine," explained Indianapolis DEA Special Agent in Charge, Greg Westfall.

Only a small amount of the drug can be deadly. Fentanyl is 100 times stronger than morphine.

In the act, any form of Fentanyl would be considered a schedule I drug, making it illegal. The drug would be illegal to possess, distribute, or import. Westfall said before the law, drug makers would change one small chemical compound that would make the drug legal.

"Since 2015, the DEA has used their authority for emergency scheduling approximately 6 times and we have scheduled 9 different types of Fentanyl, but each time we do that, these illicit clandestine chemists will take that opportunity, they’ll change just one compound and then that they can make that whole act that we did insignificant, because it’s not illegal," said Westfall.

The CDC reports in 2015 there were 52,000 drug overdose deaths nationwide. In 2016, there were 64,000. Of those, 20,000 were due to a synthetic opioid.

With the new law, Westfall said he hopes other countries would be discouraged from distributing Fentanyl to the US.

"With our counterparts in China, we’re trying to see if they’ll do a similar type act on their side, to make it not only harder once it gets imported here, but also, it will be a deterrent there as well," said Westfall.

Before the act officially becomes a law, there is a 30-day notice period. It will be about mid-January before the law goes into effect. It will last two years. In the meantime, the DEA will work to make the law permanent. States also will have the opportunity to create their own laws regarding Fentanyl.

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