The United States Sentencing Commission, the federal body responsible for recommending guidelines for federal judges’ criminal sentencing, held a hearing Wednesday to discuss increasing the penalties offenders would face for trafficking in synthetic drugs, including the highly deadly opioid fentanyl.

As discussed at a past USSC hearing, synthetic drugs are an emerging challenge for law enforcement. Often easier and cheaper to produce than their organic counterparts, synthetic opioids, marijuana, and other drugs have been an increasing feature of drug markets in recent years. These drugs are often more dangerous than their organic equivalents, with higher potencies leading to more overdoses and deaths.

Speaking before the Commission, Keith M. Graves, a representative of the National Narcotics Officers Association, emphasized synthetic drugs represent a new and unique problem for law enforcement officers across the country.

“These synthetic drugs cannot be combatted like traditional street drugs of the past. Law enforcement officers around the country are having to change their tactics due to the strength and potency of not only fentanyl, but of synthetic cathinones and synthetic cannabinoids,” he said.

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