County Resolution Calls For Repeal Of Federal Drug Law

October 19, 2017

Lackawanna County Commissioners are calling on Congress to repeal a controversial law U.S. Rep. Tom Marino championed that is under national scrutiny for hampering the federal Drug Enforcement Administration’s efforts to block excessive distribution of opioid-based painkillers.

The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act moved through Congress without objection before being signed into law last year by then-President Barack Obama. As the national opioid epidemic continues to escalate, however, language in the law makes it nearly impossible for the DEA to halt questionable narcotics shipments from large drug distributors — taking away a key tool that helped the agency curb the flow of opioid painkillers to the black market.

Reporting by The Washington Post and CBS’ “60 Minutes” recently highlighted the negative effects of the law, prompted Marino, R-10, Lycoming Twp., the law’s chief advocate, to withdraw from consideration as national drug czar and inspired a resolution Lackawanna County commissioners approved Wednesday with a 2-0 vote.

The resolution, approved by Commissioners Patrick O’Malley and Laureen Cummings, requests Congress repeal the law on the grounds it “had a negative and harmful outcome at stemming the opioid addiction battle.”

Commissioner Jerry Notarianni abstained, saying he was not familiar enough with the entire law to cast an educated vote and was not told of the resolution before Wednesday’s meeting. While unintended negative consequences of the law should be fixed, “it’s not something that is an issue for a county commissioner board to decide,” Notarianni said.

Despite ultimately supporting the resolution, Cummings also said she was unfamiliar with the specifics of the entire law.

“Out of respect for the commissioner (O’Malley), I am going to second that, because I do respect the fact that you are trying to do something to curb the crisis in our community,” Cummings said.

O’Malley, who introduced the resolution, said Congress must repeal the law to protect citizens both locally and across the country.

“The handcuffs have been put on the Drug Enforcement Administration, and hundreds of citizens are dying all the time,” he said. “It’s time to ask the United States Congress to repeal the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016 before it kills more citizens and destroys more families.”

The resolution, which will be sent to local federal lawmakers, comes just over three weeks after Lackawanna County filed a civil lawsuit against more than a dozen pharmaceutical companies over what county officials see as the businesses’ role in spawning the opioid epidemic. That legal battle could take several years to resolve.

In other business Wednesday, Cummings announced plans to hold her own public meeting on property reassessment Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. at the Dickson City Borough Building, 901 Enterprise St.

After condemning a recent public information session on reassessment — which featured Pennsylvania Economy League Executive Director Gerald Cross — as biased, Cummings promised to present her position on the controversial issue at the upcoming meeting. She opposes reassessment.

“It started off saying that (Cross) was going to give a presentation that was non-biased but then ended up being a presentation where he was in support of reassessment,” Cummings said. “So now I’m forced to do something against reassessment.”

Cross did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

Voters will decide Nov. 7 if Lackawanna County borrows up to $13 million to conduct and complete its first countywide reassessment since 1968.

Contact the writer: jhorvath@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9141; @jhorvathTT on Twitter