April 10, 2019

Moulton, Buchanan Introduce Bill to Combat Chinese Opioids

Fentanyl Sanctions Act Targets Chinese-based Drug Makers

WASHINGTON — Today, Congressmen Seth Moulton (D-MA) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL) introduced the Fentanyl Sanctions Act, bipartisan legislation to force China to stem the flow of deadly, synthetic opioids being trafficked into the United States.

Fentanyl is a synthetic drug similar to heroin but 50 times more powerful. These drugs are often manufactured in foreign countries and mailed into the United States. In fact, an estimated 80% of pure fentanyl seized by U.S. officials in 2017 arrived from China.

"Fentanyl has become the leading illegal drug in the opioid crisis in our country, and it’s time we attack the source,” Moulton said. “While China’s ban on producing fentanyl is a promising start, Congress should hold China to its word. This bill will target the fentanyl producers worldwide who profit from the overdose deaths happening in communities across our country, including Massachusetts where fentanyl is the leading cause of opioid-overdose deaths. Congress must act quickly.”

Buchanan said: “Fentanyl and other opioids have ravaged Florida communities and torn apart many families and lives. While I welcome China’s announcement that it will ban all forms of fentanyl, we must ensure that their words are followed through with meaningful action. I urge my colleagues to immediately approve this bipartisan bill to deliver another resource that could help combat the flow of opioids across our borders.”

Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate last week by a coalition that includes Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

Last week, the Chinese government announced that it would ban all forms of fentanyl. However, concerns remain about Beijing’s poor enforcement record. One report details that between 2015 and 2016, 1,072 shipments of fentanyl were seized by American officials before it could enter the U.S. Meanwhile, China only had four instances of seizing the substance before it could be exported.

Specifically, the Fentanyl Sanctions Act would:

  • Impose sanctions on China-based drug manufacturers that knowingly send synthetic opioids to drug traffickers and other criminal operations.
  • Authorize $600 million in funding for law enforcement to combat the trafficking of opioids across the globe.
  • Create a new federal commission to combat synthetic opioid trafficking that will include the Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency, Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of State.

Synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, were responsible for the greatest increase in opioid deaths in Florida between 2012 and 2017. Its many spinoffs can be even more powerful, especially the elephant tranquilizer carfentanil, and they led to more deaths in Manatee County than any other county in Florida in 2016. Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, the opioid-overdose related death rate has tripled in four years from 691 to 1,990, and Fentanyl has overtaken prescription drugs and heroin as the leading cause of opioid-overdose deaths.

According to The New York Times, since 2013, U.S. overdose deaths related to fentanyl and similar substances have skyrocketed from 3,000 to 28,000.