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105th Congress Rept. 105-629
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
2d Session Part 1
CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES TRAFFICKING PROHIBITION ACT
July 16, 1998.--Ordered to be printed
Mr. McCollum, from the Committee on the Judiciary, submitted the
R E P O R T
[To accompany H.R. 3633]
[Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]
The Committee on the Judiciary, to whom was referred the
bill (H.R. 3633) to amend the Controlled Substances Import and
Export Act to place limitations on controlled substances
brought into the United States from Mexico, having considered
the same, reports favorably thereon without amendment and
recommends that the bill do pass.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Purpose and Summary........................................ 1
Background and Need for the Legislation.................... 2
Committee Consideration.................................... 4
Committee Oversight Findings............................... 4
Committee on Government Reform and Oversight Findings...... 4
New Budget Authority and Tax Expenditures.................. 4
Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate.................. 4
Inflationary Impact Statement.............................. 5
Section-by-Section Analysis and Discussion................. 5
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported...... 6
Purpose and Summary
The ``Controlled Substances Trafficking Prohibition Act''
(H.R. 3633) addresses the problem of controlled substances
Mexico being illegally diverted after being brought into the
United States. It does so by amending the Controlled Substances
Import and Export Act so as to limit the amount of controlled
substances that an individual can bring across the Mexican
border into the United States. The bill limits the ``personal
use exemption'' in the Controlled Substances Import and Export
Act with respect to any individual entering the United States
through a land border with Mexico with a controlled substance,
without a prescription written by a practitioner licensed under
the authority of the Act (or documentation which verifies such
a prescription).\1\ Under H.R. 3633, such an individual may not
bring in more than 50 dosage units of such a controlled
substance; or, in the case of an individual who does not
lawfully reside in the United States, the quantity of
controlled substances which may be imported is based on the
approximate length of stay by that individual in the United
\1\ Under current law, the Attorney General has the authority to
exempt from otherwise applicable law those who bring controlled
substances (except a Schedule I substance) into the United States if
such substance is for that individual's personal medical use, or for an
animal accompanying him, if the substance was lawfully obtained.
Background and Need For the Legislation
The scope and nature of the movement of illegal drugs from
Mexico into the United States is dramatic, and has been the
subject of considerable attention in recent years. It is
estimated by U.S. law enforcement officials that between 60 and
70 percent of all of the cocaine entering the United States
each year transits Mexico. A growing, if less visible, aspect
of the drug problem associated with the Mexican border involves
individuals crossing the border into Mexico to purchase
pharmaceutical products, with those products then becoming a
source of illegal drug diversion in the United States.
One study has reported that 25 percent of the U.S.
residents who enter Mexico as tourists purchase pharmaceutical
products.\2\ Another study has reported that 32 percent of the
U.S. residents living along the U.S. side of the border visited
a Mexican pharmacy in the previous year.\3\ A 1992 study
reported that 81 percent of the patients at an El Paso health
clinic traveled to Juarez, Mexico, to purchase medications. 55
percent of these people reported that they purchased
medications in Mexico several times a year, with 69 percent
indicating that they had purchased pharmaceutical products in
Mexico within the last month.\4\
\2\ See E. Kristin McKeithan, and Marvin D. Shepherd,
``Pharmaceutical Products Declared by U.S. Residents on Returning to
the United States From Mexico,'' Clinical Therapeutics, Vol. 18, No. 6,
The most common reason U.S. residents visit Mexico to
acquire pharmaceutical products is the low prices of Mexican
medications, which are controlled by Mexico's National Health
Care System. The second major reason is the easy access. There
are significant differences between the United States and
Mexico in how drug products are regulated and distributed. Many
of the products in the United States that require a
prescription are available in Mexico as over- the-counter
products. Furthermore, certain drugs which are not legally
available in the United States, even with prescriptions, are
legal in Mexico. One such drug is flunitrazepam (better known
as the ``date rape drug''), a product involved in a growing and
serious abuse problem in the United States. Moreover, in
Mexico, prescriptions can be written by physicians, dentists,
homeopathic physicians, veterinarians, health professionals in
the social services, nurses, and midwives.
Studies indicate that U.S. residents from many states, not
just the border states, cross the Mexican border and return to
the United States with a wide variety of drug products in large
quantities. While many of these products are undoubtedly
purchased and brought back into the United States for
legitimate use, the types and quantities of products coming
into the United States raises serious questions about possible
illegal diversion. For example, one study found that nearly 1.5
million tablets of flunitrazepam were declared and brought into
the United States in one year through one gate at the Laredo,
Texas, Customs border crossing.\5\ The study further reported
that more than 42 percent of all those who declared drugs while
coming through the Laredo, Texas, crossing, declared
flunitrazepam. Moreover, the median age for those declaring
flunitrazepam was 26. While the importation of flunitrazepam
into the United States was banned in March, 1996, concerns
remain that the drug continues to be obtained in Mexico and
brought across the border without being declared.
\5\ ibid. The study was done in 1994-1995, at the Laredo Bridge
One, which handles visitor travel by foot and automobile, but not
commercial travel such as large trucks or tractor trailer vehicles.
Current U.S. Customs' requirements for bringing medications
into the United States are that only a ``reasonable'' amount of
medication can enter, and that it must be for personal use.
Each U.S. port of entry defines ``reasonable'' amount
differently. For example, the U.S. Customs port at Laredo
defines a ``reasonable'' amount to be a 90-day supply. All
medications must be properly identified, and the individual
must have either a prescription or written statement from the
physician stating that the medications are being used under a
physician's care and are medically necessary.
Although U.S. Customs may allow an individual to bring
Mexican medications into the United States, the individual may
still be in violation of State and federal law for prescription
and controlled drugs. For example, in Texas, U.S. residents
returning from Mexico with controlled substances are in
violation of the Texas and federal controlled substances laws,
because Mexican prescriptions for controlled substances are
only valid in Texas if the prescriber is licensed in Texas and
is registered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
There are no physicians in Mexico who are registered with the
DEA. Furthermore, the vast majority of the drug products from
Mexico are inaccurately or inadequately labeled, and, as such,
violate the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Finally, all
drug products from Mexico are in violation of federal law
(unless they meet the personal use exemption) because,
currently, no Mexican drug products are approved by the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration. Thus, individuals carrying
controlled substances from Mexico which do not comport with the
personal use exemption are in possession of an illegal
The Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime held a
hearing on the bill on March 26, 1998, at which three witnesses
testified. They were: Congressman Steve Chabot, who represents
Ohio's First District and is a member of the Subcommittee on
Crime and who authored the legislation; Matt Meagher, Senior
Investigative Reporter, Inside Edition; and Wesley S. Windle,
Program Officer, Office of Field Operations, U.S. Customs
H.R. 3633 was reported favorably on a voice vote, without
amendment, by the Subcommittee on Crime on May 7, 1998.
On May 20, 1998, the Committee met in open session and
ordered H.R. 3633 favorably reported, by voice vote, without
amendment, a quorum being present.
Committee Oversight Findings
In compliance with clause 2(l)(3)(A) of rule XI of the
Rules of the House of Representatives, the Committee reports
that the findings and recommendations of the Committee, based
on oversight activities under clause 2(b)(1) of rule X of the
Rules of the House of Representatives, are incorporated in the
descriptive portions of this report.
Committee on Government Reform and Oversight Findings
No findings or recommendations of the Committee on
Government Reform and Oversight were received as referred to in
clause 2(l)(3)(D) of rule XI of the Rules of the House of
New Budget Authority and Tax Expenditures
Clause 2(l)(3)(B) of House Rule XI is inapplicable because
this legislation does not provide new budgetary authority or
increased tax expenditures.
CongressionaL Budget Office Cost Estimate
Congressional Budget Office,
Washington, DC, June 1, 1998.
Hon. Henry J. Hyde,
Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 3633, the
Controlled Substances Trafficking Prohibition Act.
If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contacts are Mark
Grabowicz (for federal costs), who can be reached at 226-2860,
and Leo Lex (for the state and local impact), who can be
reached at 225-3220.
June E. O'Neill, Director.
cc: Hon. John Conyers, Jr.,
Ranking Minority Member.
H.R. 3633--Controlled Substances Trafficking Prohibition Act
H.R. 3633 would tighten the current restrictions on
individuals bringing certain controlled substances, mainly
those for personal medical use, into the United States through
a land border with Mexico. The bill would continue to permit
individuals to bring certain drugs across the border, but
generally only in amounts of less than 50 dosage units. Based
on information from the U.S. Customs Service, CBO estimates
that enacting H.R. 3633 would result in no significant costs to
the federal government because it would not significantly
affect the workload of the Customs Service. The bill would not
affect direct spending or receipts, so pay-as-you-go procedures
would not apply.
H.R. 3633 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and
would have no impact on the budgets of state, local, or tribal
governments. The bill would allow states to impose additional
requirements on individuals who bring controlled substances
from Mexico without a prescription or similar documentation.
The CBO staff contacts for this estimate are Mark Grabowicz
(for federal costs), who can be reached at 226-2860, and Leo
Lex (for the state and local impact), who can be reached at
225-3220. This estimate was approved by Robert A. Sunshine,
Deputy Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.
Inflationary Impact Statement
Pursuant to clause 2(l)(4) of rule XI of the Rules of the
House of Representatives, the Committee estimates that H.R.
3633 will have no inflationary impact on prices and costs in
the national economy.
Section 1. Short Title.
This section provides the short title of the Act, which is
the Controlled Substances Trafficking Prohibition Act.
Section 2. Limitation.
This section amends section 1006(a) of the Controlled
Substances Import and Export Act (Section 956(a) of title 21,
United States Code).
The Controlled Substances Import and Export Act provides
generally that it is unlawful to import into the United States
any controlled substance from schedule I or schedule II and any
narcotic drugs in schedule III, IV, or V (section 952(a) of
title 21). A number of exceptions are then delineated. One of
the exceptions is established in section 956(a), which provides
that the Attorney General may by regulation exempt any
individual who has a controlled substance (except a substance
in schedule I, pursuant to section 812 of title 21) in his
possession for his personal medical use, or for an animal
accompanying him, if he lawfully obtained such substance.
Subsection 2(a) places limitations on the personal use
exemption of section 956(a) by circumscribing the discretion of
the Attorney General to exempt controlled substances that an
individual can bring across the Mexican border into the United
States. Specifically, subsection 2(a) limits the personal use
exemption with respect to any individual entering the United
States through a land border with Mexico with a controlled
substance who does not have a prescription written by a
practitioner licensed under the authority of the Controlled
Substances Import and Export Act (or documentation which
verifies such a prescription). Subsection 2(a) provides that
such an individual may not bring in more than 50 dosage units
(as defined by the Attorney General in regulation) of such a
controlled substance; or, in the case of an individual who does
not lawfully reside in the United States, may not bring in more
than a quantity which is consistent with the approximate length
of stay by that individual in the United States (as determined
by a United States Customs official at the border).
The Committee recognizes that the effect of this subsection
is to alter legislatively the personal use exemption, which
could be altered by the Attorney General by regulation. It can
reasonably be argued that the dynamic and complex nature of
border transit of pharmaceutical products would ideally be
addressed through regulations, which might then be modified
over time in response to changing problems. It is the view of
the Committee that in the instant case it is appropriate to
respond to this specific problem legislatively rather than
waiting passively for some possible future regulatory
adjustment for two principal reasons. First, such a regulatory
adjustment has been acknowledged by federal law enforcement as
being long overdue; yet, no such adjustment has been made. This
delay highlights the oftentimes cumbersome and slow nature of
actually accomplishing regulatory changes. Second, the evidence
suggests a strong likelihood that the problem addressed by this
bill is not going to end or even change appreciably in the
foreseeable future. As such, the problem is ripe for a longer-
term legislative solution.
Subsection 2(b) clarifies that the limitations established
in section 2(a) are only the minimum requirements established
under federal law and, as such, do not preclude States from
establishing more stringent importation limitations.
Subsection 2(c) clarifies that subsection 2(a) is not to be
construed to affect in any way the jurisdiction of the
Secretary of Health and Human Services under the Federal Food,
Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported
In compliance with clause 3 of rule XIII of the Rules of
the House of Representatives, changes in existing law made by
the bill, as reported, are shown as follows (existing law
proposed to be omitted is enclosed in black brackets, new
matter is printed in italics, existing law in which no change
is proposed is shown in roman):
SECTION 1006 OF THE CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES IMPORT AND EXPORT ACT
Sec. 1006. (a) [The Attorney General] (1) Except as
provided in paragraph (2), the Attorney General may by
regulation exempt from sections 1002 (a) and (b), 1003, 1004,
and 1005 any individual who has a controlled substance (except
a substance in schedule I) in his possession for his personal
medical use, or for administration to an animal accompanying
him, if the lawfully obtained such substance and he makes such
declaration (or gives such other notification) as the Attorney
General may by regulation require.
(2) Any individual who enters the United States through a
land border with Mexico with a controlled substance (except a
substance in schedule I) for which such individual does not
possess a prescription written by a practitioner licensed under
the authority of this Act or documentation which verifies such
a prescription and who meets the requirements of paragraph (1)
may bring a controlled substance (except a substance in
schedule I) into the United States but only in an amount--
(A) which is not more than 50 dosage units (as
defined by the Attorney General in regulation) of the
controlled substances; or
(B) which, in the case of an individual who does
not lawfully reside in the United States, is consistent
with the approximate length of the individual's stay in
the United States as determined by a United States
Customs official at the United States border.
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