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New Bills Target Animal Sedative ‘Tranq’ Used by Drug Traffickers

By Jake Beardslee · August 7, 2023

In brief…

  • New York lawmakers have proposed bills to classify animal sedative "tranq" a controlled substance after prior efforts failed.
  • Tranq is making its way into illicit drugs like heroin and cocaine, causing zombie-like effects and rotting wounds.
  • Bipartisan federal legislation would, if passed, also restrict tranq, which, unlike similar drugs, is currently unregulated.
New York legislators have renewed efforts to restrict the animal sedative "tranq" after its emergence in illegal drugs. Tanq causes zombie-like effects and rotting wounds.  Rawpixel

New York legislators are considering two new bills that would make the animal tranquilizer “tranq” illegal to possess or sell. Past attempts to ban tranq were unsuccessful, but this time many lawmakers believe the proposals could pass with bipartisan support, reported The New York Post.

The bills - S-5439 in the state Senate and A-5914 in the Assembly - would make xylazine, aka tranq, a Schedule III drug like ketamine. “I imagine both our parties will get together on this one,” upstate Assemblyman Brian Maher (R) told The Post. “It’s got to be a priority for all of us.”

Tranq, used as an animal sedative, has been finding its way into illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration detected tranq in 15% of the drugs analyzed in its Northeast lab, with 85% of the tanq-infused group also containing the synthetic opioid fentanyl. Experts caution that even party drugs like cocaine now risk being laced with tranq.

The New York Senate previously approved bills in 2016 and 2017 to regulate tranq, but the legislation stalled in the Assembly. Some speculate that election strategy was a factor, since Democrats had their sights set on unseating the bills’ Republican sponsor, former Senator Terrence Murphy. In 2018, Democrat Peter Harckham managed to narrowly defeat Murphy for his seat.

If passed, the new bills would aid law enforcement in responding to the tranq epidemic sweeping the U.S. “It allows them to utilize that classification and create incentives for people to really think twice before they use this drug,” said Maher.

Governor Kathy Hochul’s office said any change to tranq’s designation must go through the legislature.

Bipartisan bills in Congress would also restrict tranq, which, unlike similar drugs, is currently unregulated.The proposed “Combating Illicit Xylazine Act” would empower the DEA to track manufacturing and declare tranq an emerging threat. It has support from 40 state attorneys general, including New York’s Letitia James.