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Senators Toomey and Jones Working to Keep Deadly Fentanyl Out of the U.S.

September 21, 2018
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Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Doug Jones (D-Ala.) are proposing new penalties on foreign countries that turn a blind eye to drug kingpins who export deadly fentanyl to the United States.

The bipartisan 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.

"The opioid and heroin epidemic has become increasingly lethal in part due to the widespread presence of illicit fentanyl," said Senator 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."

"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 Senator 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."

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 bipartisan Blocking Deadly Fentanyl Imports Act is supported by the Pennsylvania District Attorney's Association, the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, and the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce.

Background:

What is fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a powerful and deadly synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent.[1]

What is the role of fentanyl in the current crisis in drug overdoses?

According to provisional counts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29,418 Americans died from overdoses involving fentanyl in 2017, an increase of 840 percent in just five years.[2] According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, fentanyl was present in 67 percent of the 5,456 drug overdoses in Pennsylvania in 2017.[3]

Where does illicit fentanyl come from?

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seizure data, China is the principal source country of illicit fentanyl and fentanyl-related compounds in the United States, including both scheduled and non-scheduled substances.[4]

On June 28, 2018, CBP seized 110 pounds of fentanyl from China at the Port of Philadelphia.[5] That amount has a street value of nearly $1.7 billion and could kill the entire population of Pennsylvania two times over.[6]

What has China done to attempt to control illicit fentanyl exports?

The scheduling of substances makes it illegal to manufacture, sell, or possess those drugs without authorization. In October 2015, China scheduled 116 New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), including six fentanyl analogues. On March 1, 2017, China announced controls on four more fentanyl analogues: carfentanil, furanylfentanyl, valeryl fentanyl, and acryfentanyl. On December 28, 2017, it announced domestic scheduling controls on 4-anilino-N-phenethylpiperidine (ANFF) and N-phenethyl-4-piperidone (NPP), two key precursor chemicals used to produce illicit fentanyl.[7]

Under an agreement with the U.S. Postal Service, China's postal service provides advanced electronic data on parcels mailed to the United States. The U.S. CBP has stated that China is providing AED for over 98 percent of parcels.[8]

What has China not done to control 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.[9]

In November 2017, President Trump requested that China schedule fentanyl as a class, which would effectively place all fentanyl analogues under control.[10]

In April 2018, Attorney General Sessions indicated he was seeking "greater cooperation" from China in sharing bank records in order to reduce illicit fentanyl imports.[11]

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.

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[1] "Drug Facts: Fentanyl," National Institute on Drug Abuse, June 2016.
[2] Christopher Ingraham, "Fentanyl use drove drug overdose deaths to a record high in 2017, CDC estimates," The Washington Post, August 15, 2018.
[3] "DEA Announces 5,456 Drug-Related Overdose Deaths in Pennsylvania in 2017," United States Drug Enforcement Administration, August 21, 2018.
[4] "International Narcotics Control Strategy Report," United States Department of State, March 2018.
[5] "Philadelphia CBP Seizes Nearly $1.7 Million in Fentanyl Shipped from China," U.S. Customs and Border Protection, June 28, 2018.
[6] Bruce Golding, "Men caught with enough fentanyl to kill 26 million people, New York Post, June 8, 2018.
[7] Liana W. Rose and Susan V. Lawrence, "Illicit Fentanyl, China's Role, and U.S. Foreign Policy Options, Congressional Research Service, May 22, 2018.
[8] "Review of the Role of DHS in Stopping the Flow of Opioids & Other Dangerous Drugs," United States Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, May 16, 2018.
[9] Esmé E. Deprez, Li Hui, and Ken Wills, "Deadly Chinese Fentanyl Is Creating a New Era of Drug Kingpins," Bloomberg, May 22, 2018.
[10] "President Donald J. Trump's State Visit to China, The White House, November 10, 2017.
[11] Liana W. Rose and Susan V. Lawrence, "Illicit Fentanyl, China's Role, and U.S. Foreign Policy Options, Congressional Research Service, May 22, 2018.