U.S. Rep. John Katko urged members of a House subcommittee to support legislation he's introduced that aims to crack down on the growing synthetic drug problem.
Katko, R-Camillus, unveiled his bill last week during a press conference in Syracuse. The measure would establish a new chemical compounds schedule under the Controlled Substances Act and add 13 forms of synthetic fentanyl to the schedule.
A key provision in the legislation would allow the Department of Justice to temporarily add a substance to the new schedule, which would give the federal government additional time to test the compound and determine it should be permanently added to the list under the Controlled Substances Act.
In his testimony before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations, Katko said Syracuse-area hospitals handled a record number of synthetic drug overdose cases. And in Washington D.C., there were 439 ambulance trips due to synthetic drug abuse in June 2015.
"The synthetic drug epidemic has swept our nation and crippled communities in central New York," he said.
Katko is hoping his bill gains traction in Congress. There are nine cosponsors who have signed on to the House version of the measure, including U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice, a Long Island Democrat.
The Senate bill is backed by U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the committee's ranking member.