Senate Judiciary Committee

Senate Judiciary CommitteeYesterday the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would expand the attorney general's unilateral authority to ban psychoactive substances in a vain effort to keep up with inventive underground chemists. The Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues Act of 2017, a.k.a. the SITSA Act, would create a new category under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) known as Schedule A to facilitate the administrative prohibition of new drugs that resemble those in the law's other schedules. The bill, introduced by Rep. John Katco (R-N.Y.) in the House (H.R. 2851) and by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in the Senate (S. 1327), is both an alarming expansion of bureaucratic power and a vivid illustration of prohibition's absurdity.

In theory, the drugs that Katco and Grassley can't name but want to bansynthetic opioids, stimulants, cannabinoids, and psychedelicsare already banned by the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act, a law that has been on the books for more than three decades. The Analogue Act criminalizes production and distribution of compounds that are structurally similar to controlled substances and have similar effects (or are represented as having similar effects). But the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Justice Department agency that would exercise the authority that the SITSA Act grants, complains that prosecuting people under the Analogue Act is difficult. Prosecutors...