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“Defining, but Protecting, DEA’s Suspension Powers: the Impact of HR 4069”

DEA Chronicles By D. Linden Barber

The “Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act” introduced by Representatives Blackburn and Marino defines the term “imminent danger.” The Controlled Substances Act requires DEA to find that a registrant poses an imminent danger to public health or safety before the Agency can issue an immediate suspension order, but the current law does not define “imminent danger.” DEA’s power to issue immediate suspensions is essential to protecting our communities and families from the harms of prescription drug abuse. That power to suspend must be available to the Agency to abate truly imminent dangers that threaten the lives and health of the American public. Because an immediate suspension has significant Due Process implications, the use of that power is confined to addressing imminent dangers. As I indicated in testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, defining imminent danger will protect and preserve this important power given to DEA. In the absence of a clear legislative standard for suspensions, courts have shown a willingness to intervene. I believe that establishing a clear standard for DEA to follow will better protect the public and will reduce legal challenges to immediate suspension orders. Fewer legal challenges may not be good for the business of lawyers like me, but I’ll gladly trade business for real progress in protecting our communities from prescription drug abuse. What do you think the impact of defining “imminent danger” will be?

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