Obenshain Statement on Bill to Curb Fentanyl Crisis in Commonwealth Denied Hearing in House of Delegates

February 16, 2024

Legislation, passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote of 38-2, was docketed in House and then refused a hearing

RICHMOND, VA – Today, Senator Mark Obenshain’s (R- Rockingham) Senate Bill 469 was docketed to be heard in the Courts of Justice Criminal Subcommittee in the House of Delegates and then was abruptly removed without a hearing or testimony. 

This bill addresses the issue of counterfeit drugs, particularly targeting those laced with deadly substances like fentanyl. In 2022, the DEA confiscated over 59.6 million counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl, but the real concern lies in the millions more that slipped through and made their way into the Commonwealth. Notably, fake oxycodone pills led to nine overdoses in Loudoun County schools this past year. 

Senator Obenshain said of its abrupt removal and rejection of a hearing, “Tragically, virtually every person in the Commonwealth has someone close to them or knows someone with a close connection to someone who has died of a drug overdose, fentanyl in particular. I was grateful to my colleagues in the State Senate for passing this bipartisan bill out of the Senate with only two nay votes. When I was notified of its docketing to the Courts of Justice Criminal Subcommittee and confirmed that it would receive a hearing, I looked forward to presenting the contents of this bill to the committee. After arriving to present the legislation, the chair unilaterally declared that the bill would not be heard.” 

He continued, “The bill provides three avenues to get at those who are manufacturing and altering these drugs for sale: It elevates penalties for violations related to adulterated or misbranded drugs, also known as counterfeit drugs. It criminalizes the possession of ‘encapsulating machines’ and ‘tableting machines’ (pill presses). It also extends the existing penalties for manufacturing methamphetamine with a minor or incapacitated person present to those who commit the same act of manufacturing counterfeit drugs with fentanyl. In addition to giving prosecutors tools to go after these drug dealers, it also protects children who live in homes where fentanyl laced drugs are being manufactured. This is the same protection we are providing children who are present in meth labs.”

Faythe Silveira on behalf of “Fentanyl Moms,” a group committed to raising awareness of the opioid crisis and the deadly effects of fentanyl, commented, “We are in shock and pain that the House subcommittee refused to hear Senator Obenshain’s bill that would make it harder for traffickers to make pressed fentanyl pills or manufacture drugs with minors present. Families should not have to wait another whole year to see change.  What is it going to take to stop this crisis? 2,000 people in Virginia, many in their teens and 20’s, died from fentanyl in the past year. Fake pressed pills account for many of those deaths. Thanks to Senator Obenshain and other champion legislators for trying to stop the flow of poisonous fentanyl.”

Obenshain concluded, “In addressing the challenges posed by fentanyl, the General Assembly must put petty partisan politics aside and come together to prioritize treatment, robust drug education programs, and increase public awareness. And given the crisis we face from fentanyl, we also need to make sure we disrupt supply chains and production processes. This partisan action means that Virginians must wait another year and ensures that more children, teenagers, and young adults will die as a result of this fentanyl poison.”

Senator Obenshain represents the second district in the Senate of Virginia. The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Bath, Highland, Page, Rockingham, and Augusta (part.) He is a member of the Senate Committee on Courts of Justice; Commerce & Labor; Agriculture, Conservation, and Natural Resources; and the Finance Committee.