A bipartisan bill aimed at combatting the nation’s ongoing opioid epidemic proposes new penalties on foreign countries that turn a blind eye to drug kingpins who export deadly fentanyl to the United States.
Sponsored by Alabama U.S. Sen. Doug Jones and Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, the Blocking Deadly Fentanyl Imports Act would make American foreign aid contingent upon a recipient country cooperating with U.S. drug enforcement efforts relating to fentanyl. Under this measure, a fentanyl-producing nation, such as China, would lose access to the Export-Import Bank and be ineligible for other U.S. taxpayer-subsidized aid if it fails to cooperate with the U.S. on narcotics control.
“Like many places across the country, Alabama is in the midst of a substance abuse and overdose crisis, in part because of dangerous synthetic drugs like fentanyl,” said Jones. “Fentanyl not only harms those who use it, but it also poses a serious threat to our first responders should they be exposed. This legislation is another smart step to stop illicit fentanyl from being transported across our borders and into our communities.”
Fentanyl has caused fatal overdoses across the United States. Sometimes added to heroin or cocaine without the user knowing, fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin and morphine, and can kill those who come in contact with even minuscule amounts of it. Many in law enforcement and the health care industry believe it is drug catalyst of the national opioid epidemic.
This measure would also require the State Department to identify in its annual report on narcotics trafficking those countries that are major producers of fentanyl. This requirement is already in place for countries that are major sources of heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.
“The opioid and heroin epidemic has become increasingly lethal in part due to the widespread presence of illicit fentanyl,” said the bill’s co-sponsor Toomey. “Since fentanyl can be fifty times as potent as heroin, just a tiny amount of this dangerous substance can kill a person, including first responders who may be inadvertently exposed to the drug when responding to an overdose victim or a crime scene. For the sake of our communities and the safety of law enforcement, countries like China must stop illicitly exporting fentanyl and improve their drug enforcement efforts now.”
Calling out China’s role in illicit fentanyl exports
With deaths from illicit fentanyl sourced from China continuing to climb at dramatic rates, it is clear more needs to be done to stem the flow of this deadly substance into our country.
In September 2017 and April 2018, the United States indicted six Chinese nationals in connection with fentanyl manufacturing and distribution. All six charged Chinese nationals remain at large.
In November 2017, President Donald Trump requested that China schedule fentanyl as a class, which would effectively place all fentanyl analogues under control.
In April 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions indicated he was seeking “greater cooperation” from China in sharing bank records in order to reduce illicit fentanyl imports.
The Blocking Deadly Fentanyl Imports Act would require countries like China that are major sources of fentanyl to comply with international agreements on narcotics control, give regulators authority to ban new illicit dangerous substances in an emergency, prosecute drug makers who produce fentanyl and fentanyl analogues, and regulate the ownership of pill presses, which are used to produce counterfeit narcotics.