(The Center Square) – The state House approved a measure criminalizing xylazine on Wednesday.
The animal tranquilizer, also known as “tranq,” remains a crucial part of veterinary care for large animals such as cows and horses but has also become a common cutting agent for fentanyl, spiking fatalities among drug users over the last few years.
House Bill 1661 would make xylazine possession a felony offense, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. The bill still allows the use of xylazine for veterinary purposes. The chamber approved the measure 169-34.
In April, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy declared fentanyl mixed with xylazine an emerging threat and a number of states have reclassified xylazine as a Schedule III or IV drug. Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro temporarily classified xylazine as a Schedule III drug to limit access.
Xylazine doesn’t respond to overdose reversal drugs, naloxone, because it isn’t an opioid. Users can also develop grisly skin ulcers, and its rapid integration into the illicit market leaves lawmakers wary of waiting for the sluggish regulatory process to address the issue.
The bill’s author, state Republican Rep. Carl Metzgar, R-Somerset, said it’s a necessary step “because there’s no way to charge someone” for illegal use otherwise.
State Rep. Emily Kinkead, D-Bellevue., says the policy – much like the broader War on Drugs – will only further strain the criminal justice system, not keep xylazine off the streets.
“Charging low level drug users does nothing more than introduce more people to our criminal justice system which is wholly unequipped to treat substance abuse,” she said.
The proposal now moves to the Senate for consideration.