Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he is “dubious” of a 2016 law that effectively took away the Drug Enforcement Administration’s most potent weapons against distributors and manufacturers of prescription opioids, and that he would support new legislation to expand the agency’s arsenal, reports the Washington Post.
At a news conference Wednesday, Sessions said that the DEA faced more challenges than it would have “had the law not passed” and that he would support a new law “to make sure we’re fully able to carry out effective enforcement policies.” The remarks came after Sessions and acting DEA administrator Robert Patterson laid out steps they plan to take in an effort to stem the opioid crisis.
Sessions announced $12 million in grants and a new DEA division overseeing the Appalachian region to help law enforcement officials combat illicit drugs, especially prescription opioids, and said he has directed his U.S. attorneys to designate an opioid coordinator in their offices. DEA will establish its new division, the Louisville Field Division, on Jan. 1 to unify its drug trafficking investigations, officials said.
The division will include Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia, will have about 90 special agents and 130 task-force officers, and focus on illicit drug trafficking in the Appalachian Mountains. Kellyanne Conway, one of President Trump’s top advisers, has been tasked with overseeing White House initiatives to combat opioid abuse. “The president has made this a White House priority. He’s asked her to coordinate and lead the effort from the White House,” Sessions said, calling Conway “exceedingly talented.”
Sessions’s announcement was the latest DOJ action regarding the increase in opioid-related overdose deaths. Earlier this month, the department announced a change in the way fentanyl is classified so that anyone who possesses, imports, distributes or manufactures a fentanyl-related substance can be criminally prosecuted.