Democratic Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown joined a bipartisan group of six Senators Thursday to introduce a bill that would sanction any country involved in the trafficking of illegal opioids into the United States.
According to the U.S Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration’s 2018 National Drug Assessment, synthetic opioids, specifically fentanyl, secretly created and trafficked into the United States is “responsible for the ongoing fentanyl epidemic.” The majority of these opioids are produced in China and then trafficked into America through Mexico, making these two countries primarily responsible for the current US epidemic. They noted these drugs are “now the most lethal category of opioids used in the United States…Fentanyl suppliers will continue to experiment with new fentanyl-related substances and adjust supplies in attempts to circumvent new regulations imposed by the United States, China, and Mexico.” Because of this, the highest quality of fentanyl carries the street name: “China White.”
S.1044. “A bill to impose sanctions with respect to foreign traffickers of illicit opioids, and for other purposes” intent, per the summary message provided by the bill’s sponsors:
This targeted sanctions legislation would give U.S. law enforcement and sanctions officials more tools to combat the trafficking of opioids into the United States. The legislation would direct the President to publicly identify foreign traffickers of opioids on an annual basis and use a number of precision economic and financial sanctions policy tools to cripple their operations, including denying access to U.S. markets, freezing their assets and blocking transactions with U.S. financial institutions.
Cosponsoring the bill, alongside Senator Brown is; Senator Tom Cotton [R-AR], Senator Marco Rubio [R-FL], Senator Robert Menendez [D-NJ], Senator Jeanne Shaheen [D-NH], Senator Pat Toomey [R-PA].
As previously reported, fentanyl is now a national epidemic. Ohio is one of the states most affected by the deadly drug, despite some of the most comprehensive drug preventative measures in the country. Since 2010, synthetic opioids deaths in Ohio rose from 175 to 2,296.
While both major political parties in the country are aggressively divided, the opioid epidemic is one issue where they have consistently found common ground. President Donald Trump made opioids a keystone issue throughout his entire 2016 campaign for the White House. The bill is expected to move swiftly through the legislative process. The bill also dovetails specifically into another key issue that has defined much of the national political discourse.
President Trump has been a consistent critic of trade imbalances with China and Mexico. While former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was less assertive about the issue, her primary challenger, Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was also aggressively in favor of addressing trade with China and Mexico. Should this law be enacted, it could become a key point of leverage in potential trade talks that would have bipartisan support.
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Andrew Shirley is a reporter at Battleground State News and The Ohio Star. Send tips to [email protected].
Photo “Sherrod Brown” by Sherrod Brown. Background Photo “Opioids” by Tech. Sgt. Mark R. W. Orders-Woempner.