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Civil rights groups want fentanyl-like substance ban to endA record 85,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2020

President Joe Biden is facing a crucial test of his promise to reduce overdose deaths in the U.S. through addiction treatment, civil rights and drug policy groups say.

The imminent expiration of a ban on highly addictive fentanyl analogues could complicate Biden’s preferred approach, which is focused on safe and supervised opioid use, medication-assisted treatment, and reducing the flow of illicit substances into the U.S. Those policies diverge from the previous administration’s, which embraced crackdowns on the opioid trade alongside addiction treatment.

Federal prosecutions tied to fentanyl increased 3,600% between fiscal 2015 and 2019, according to a U.S. Sentencing Commission report, and most of those prosecuted were people of color, civil rights groups say. They’re looking to the Democratic president to curb that trend.

“The Biden administration and leaders in Congress are faced with their first major test on criminal justice reform,” Hilary Shelton, director to the NAACP’s Washington Bureau, told reporters Monday.

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