Fentanyl and Fentanyl Analogues: Growth and Background
Fentanyl and fentanyl analogues became exponentially more popular in terms of drug trafficking patterns after 2014. Despite relative obsolescence before that, fentanyl-related drug trafficking crimes have grown staggeringly. However, it’s growth largely tracks with the wider opioid crisis in the United States. The United States Sentencing Commission published a study on the growth of these types of drug trafficking crimes.
The United States Drug Enforcement Association classifies fentanyl as a schedule II controlled substance. It classifies analogues as schedule I controlled substances with no acceptable medical use in the United States. While the Drug Enforcement Association usually classifies drugs after their emergence, the prevalence of new synthetic opioids led to a class-based approach to variations in 2018. Rather than examining each variant, the DEA (and subsequently, sentencing guidelines) defined fentanyl analogues based on chemical similarity. This deviated from a previous system of classification based on individual examination.
Fentanyl and Analogue Legislation
Similar guidelines from various government agencies emerged throughout 2018 as a reaction to the rising danger of fentanyl. For example, the INTERDICT Act (International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology) in January of 2018 encouraged increased use of chemical screening devices. The STOP Act (Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention) of 2018 required the screening of all international inbound post by December of 2020. These acts specifically targeted fentanyl and analogue acquisition, as the dark web supplied the drugs in many cases.
The aforementioned guidelines have thus far failed to significantly alter the fentanyl-related incidents in 2019.
Sentencing Data for Fentanyl and Analogues
The Sentencing Commission also included research outlining data related to fentanyl and analogue trafficking crimes. It compared these crimes to trafficking crimes related to other drugs. Despite making up only 5.8% of drug trafficking cases, 74.7% of drug cases where injury occurred in 2019 involved fentanyl. As a result, the commission introduced an enhancement for traffickers who knowingly misrepresent fentanyl-like materials as other drugs.
Just as is the case with other drugs, these traffickers are more likely to be male than female. However, they are also much more likely to be U.S. citizens than other drug traffickers. They generally had a more extensive criminal history than other traffickers as well. This potentially contributed to the comparatively longer sentences imposed. Fentanyl traffickers were sentenced consistently with methamphetamine traffickers while analogue traffickers saw sentences that mirrored heroin-related sentences.
Additionally, both types of traffickers were more likely than other drugs to sell other drugs.
Overall, the steady and dangerous rise of fentanyl and analogues with the opioid crisis over the past 7 years has been addressed by numerous governing entities. We can expect this level of intervention and data on imposed guidelines to continue. If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime of this kind, contact us to talk about your case.