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Pill press molds used to produce illegal fentanyl are covered by legislation in Congress • Virginia Mercury

The Criminalizing Abused Substance Templates, or CAST, Act would redefine the criminal penalty for producing counterfeit drugs using a pill press. Counterfeiting drugs is already illegal, as set out in the Controlled Substances Act, but no penalty is included in the law.

Under CAST, it would be illegal to possess a pill press mold with the intent to produce schedule I or II drugs, a crime punishable by up to twenty years.

CAST was introduced in the House in October 2019 by Representatives Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat from Virginia, and David Kustoff, a Republican from Tennessee, and was reintroduced in March 2023.

The bill got a boost earlier this month when Senators Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., introduced it in the House.

Overdoses and deaths

The bill specifically targets the production and distribution of opioids, especially fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid with an incredibly high potency, approximately 100 times more than morphine. As a result, it is often mixed with other medications to increase strength, sometimes in lethal doses.

Synthetic opioids are the leading causes of opioid overdoses. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, deaths involving synthetic opioids, such as illicitly produced fentanyl, increased 55% from 2020 to 2021.

Opioid-related deaths and other drug poisoning deaths per 100,000 people are highest in West Virginia, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Tennessee and Kentucky.

Lawmakers attribute this increase in fentanyl deaths to the counterfeit market and drug trafficking.

“The overdose crisis and the growing scourge of fentanyl are undoubtedly being exacerbated by the increase in the use of illegal pill presses to manufacture counterfeit medications,” Spanberger said in a statement about her legislation.

“By increasing penalties for drug traffickers who use illegal pill presses to manufacture drugs, our bipartisan legislation would give our law enforcement the power to crack down on these criminals and prevent dangerous substances – like fentanyl – from being pressed into illegal pills and resold. our streets.”

Much of the illicit fentanyl sold in the US contains at least a potentially fatal dose of fentanyl, 2 mg. A DEA study found that 42% of pills tested contained this amount or more, some as high as 5.1 mg.

Lawmakers said they want to ensure law enforcement officials have the necessary tools to stop the production and sale of these drugs.

“Strengthening penalties for the criminals who produce these counterfeit medicines could help eliminate them from the market,” Hassan said in a statement. “This bipartisan legislation will ensure law enforcement officials have the tools they need to crack down on criminals making counterfeit medications.”

Because lethal doses of fentanyl are often mixed with other drugs, according to the DEA, “it is possible for someone to take a pill without knowing it contains fentanyl.” Cassidy said the CAST Act could prevent these deaths.

“No one should worry if their medications are counterfeit or laced with fentanyl,” he said.

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