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U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

09/11/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/11/2019 16:58

Peters Urges Inclusion of Bipartisan Legislation to Combat Fentanyl Trafficking in Final Defense Bill

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senator Gary Peters, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is urging Senate Armed Services Committee leaders to include a provision that would crack down on international manufacturers and traffickers of fentanyl in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report. The bipartisan Fentanyl Sanctions Act, which Peters cosponsored, would help curb the production and distribution of illicit synthetic opioids - such as fentanyl - that have taken thousands of American lives. Provisions from the bipartisan bill were included in the NDAA legislation that passed the Senate earlier this year.

'These provisions have strong, bipartisan support and would establish important tools to address the opioid crisis that has devastated communities in Michigan and across the country,' Peters wrote. 'We need to leverage every tool - including tough sanctions on illicit fentanyl manufacturers and distributors - to help stem trafficking and prevent this lethal drug from illegally entering the United States.'

Experts have identified China's lax enforcement over synthetic opioid production and exportation as a key contributor to the flood of synthetic opioids entering the United States. Some officials estimate that China is responsible for roughly 90% of the illicit fentanyl in the world. The dangerous substance is far more potent than other opioids, with one kilogram containing as many as 500,000 lethal doses.

The provisions based on the Fentanyl Sanctions Act would pressure China to pursue legitimate enforcement of those regulations by directing the Administration to impose sanctions on Chinese drug manufacturers, trafficking organizations and any financial institutions that assist these entities. The bill also authorizes $600 million in new funding for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to combat foreign trafficking of synthetic opioids. The legislation would represent the first-ever targeted fentanyl sanctions meant to hold the Chinese government accountable for their failure to crack down on manufacturers and traffickers of dangerous opioids that are ravaging countless U.S. communities.

Senator Peters has long been committed to fighting the deadly opioid epidemic. Earlier this year, Senator Peters introduced a bipartisan bill to address staffing shortages at the nation's ports of entry, where many illicit drugs, including fentanyl, are smuggled into the United States. Previously, Peters helped lead 15 of his colleagues in calling on the Administration to take immediate action to reduce the price of life-saving opioid overdose reversal drugs. Peters also authored the bipartisan YOUTH Act, signed into law as part of broader legislation, which expanded access to safe, effective medication-assisted treatment for adolescents and young adults struggling with opioid addiction.

The text of the letter is copied below and available here :

September 11, 2019

The Honorable James Inhofe The Honorable Jack Reed
Chairman Ranking Member
Senate Committee on Armed Services Senate Committee on Armed Services
228 Russell Senate Office Building 228 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Inhofe and Ranking Member Reed:

As you begin conference discussions on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020, I write to request that you maintain the provisions in Title LXVIII of the Senate bill, S.1790, in the final conference report. These provisions have strong, bipartisan support and would establish important tools to address the opioid crisis that has devastated communities in Michigan and across the country.

Synthetic opioids have been major contributors to the opioid crisis. From August 2017 to August 2018, 31,900 of the 48,000 deaths from opioid overdoses were caused by synthetic opioids other than methadone. According to the most recent available CDC data, my home state of Michigan saw nearly 50% more synthetic opioid overdose deaths in 2017 than in 2016.

In particular, fentanyl and its analogues have had the most devastating effects in the current crisis. Illicit fentanyl is entering the United States primarily from China and Mexico. China is the world's largest producer of illicit fentanyl, where manufacturers generally ship the drug directly to the United States, in purities of over 90%, or to transnational criminal organizations in Mexico, who then smuggle it into the United States in purities of under 10%. Federal Government officials have estimated that China is responsible for 90% of the illicit fentanyl in the United States.

So far, the United States has sanctioned only one fentanyl trafficking entity, in April 2018, using the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. We need to leverage every tool - including tough sanctions on illicit fentanyl manufacturers and distributors - to help stem trafficking and prevent this lethal drug from illegally entering the United States. In addition, the public pressure that would arise from sanctioning under-regulated Chinese manufacturers could cause China to take further action against these entities itself.

Thank you for your consideration of this request, and I look forward to working with you to ensure that the Federal Government has the tools it needs to tackle the opioid crisis from every angle.

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