Omnibus Bill Fails to Address the Overdose Crisis

Press Release March 11, 2022
Media Contact

Brian Pacheco
[email protected]

Washington, D.C. – March 11, 2022 – The FY2022 Omnibus appropriations package heading to President Biden’s desk for his signature unfortunately maintains much of the drug war status quo. This includes ineffective, misguided, punitive policies that ban federal funding for syringes, fall short on adequate funding for harm reduction services, extend classwide scheduling and harsh criminal penalties for fentanyl-related substances that over criminalize communities while overdose deaths continue to rise, and prohibit the District of Columbia from regulating marijuana sales which ignores the will of 65% of D.C. voters who voted for marijuana legalization in 2014.  We’re deeply disappointed in House and Senate leadership for allowing this version of the bill to move forward and neglecting this rare opportunity to advance long overdue reforms.

“With an overdose crisis that claimed more than 100,000 lives in 2021 alone, we urgently need to employ evidence-based services to save lives. Syringe services programs directly reach people at highest risk for overdose, HIV, hepatitis C and other infections, as well as other harms associated with drug use. It’s past time that lawmakers prioritize making more of these lifesaving harm reduction services available,” said Grant Smith, deputy director of National Affairs with the Drug Policy Alliance. 

Although Congress allocated $18 million—a $5 million (38% increase) in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Infectious Disease and the Opioid Epidemic program that supports overdose prevention and syringe services programs—this increase is inadequate to support the urgent need to expand access to syringe services programs to save lives and prevent and treat the increasing rate of infectious diseases related to drug use. 

About the extension of classwide scheduling of fentanyl-related substances, Maritza Perez, director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance remarked: “This extension will do nothing to curb the overdose crisis. Drug criminalization has poisoned the drug supply and is responsible for leading us to record-high overdose deaths. Doubling down on harsh penalties for fentanyl-related substances will only exacerbate this crisis, expand mass incarceration, worsen racial disparities in the criminal legal system, and further fuel the cycle that punishes people rather than helping them. Instead of criminalizing fentanyl-related substances, we must invest in a public health approach with lifesaving harm reduction services and evidence-based treatment for people who use drugs.”

About the inclusion of the DC marijuana rider, Queen Adesuyi, senior national policy manager stated: “Congressional leadership and lead appropriators have unjustly allowed Congress to continue to block the will of 65% of D.C. voters. With the re-inclusion of the marijuana rider in the budget, Congress will continue to tie the hands of D.C. policymakers who are willing and eager to establish a regulatory framework for adult use of cannabis, in order to take advantage of the serious economic, public health, and public safety benefits of regulation like every other state that has reformed its marijuana laws. For too long, Congress has treated D.C. like a political playground, ignoring home rule. Unfortunately, despite unprecedented bipartisan support for federal marijuana reform, Congressional leadership and appropriators are continuing the practice of allowing D.C. to be used as a bargaining chip during the budget process, all at the expense of nearly 700,000 D.C. residents.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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