After another short-term extension, the placement of all fentanyl-related substances in the highly restrictive Schedule I is once again in limbo, set to expire at the end of the current Congress without further action.

Key points

– The initial, temporary, class-wide scheduling of all fentanyl-related substances was an understandable response to the dramatic rise of designer opioids, but it has limitations as a permanent solution.

– A straight extension of the class-wide scheduling order could result in unjust prosecutions and disparate sentencing outcomes as well as inhibit valuable research.

– A simple lapse without additional policy measures would similarly miss out on any deterrent or prosecution-related benefits of class-wide scheduling.

– Policymakers could improve either an extension or a lapse of the fentanyl-related substances class-wide scheduling order by enacting supplemental measures to mitigate costs, boost prosecutions, and support research.

– The complexities of the fentanyl-related substances class-wide scheduling debate suggest that Congress should use this debate as an opportunity to revisit fentanyl sentencing more broadly.