U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) is tackling the fentanyl crisis.
Last week, Blackburn and Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR), John Kennedy (R-LA) and Ben Sasse (R-NE) introduced he Ending the Fentanyl Crisis Act of 2019, the Tennessee senator said in a press release. The bill aims to ensure that sentencing penalties for trafficking fentanyl reflect the deadliness of the drug. This legislation marks a major step toward addressing the nation’s opioid epidemic, Blackburn said.
“Fentanyl is deadly, and it is killing Americans every single day,” Blackburn said. “It’s time the punishment fit the crime for these drug traffickers.”
The bill reduces the amount of fentanyl that drug traffickers and dealers must be caught with in order for mandatory sentencing minimums to apply. Under current sentencing guidelines, a trafficker with 2 grams of fentanyl is treated the same as a trafficker with 5 grams of heroin even though fentanyl is 50 times deadlier than heroin.
Cotton and the other senators joined Blackburn in discussing their reasoning for introducing the bill.
“Fentanyl is one of the most dangerous drugs there is,” Cotton said. “It killed nearly 30,000 Americans last year and has been a driving force behind the opioid crisis in the United States. But while the epidemic has spiraled, our drug laws have been stuck in the past. This bill will make sure, when it comes to opioid distribution and trafficking, the punishment fits the crime.”
Kennedy said, “The opioid crisis kills more than 175 Americans every single day. Fentanyl and fentanyl analogues play a huge role in our drug epidemic. All it takes is an amount of fentanyl weighing less than a sprinkle of sugar to kill someone. Our sentencing laws have to reflect the potency of this drug in order for us to get it off the streets.”
Sasse said, “Fentanyl is fueling mass suicide. Too many of our friends, family, and neighbors are dying deaths of despair. While families, schools, and churches are on the frontlines, there’s an important role for lawmakers: we need to give law enforcement the tools they need to put fentanyl traffickers behind bars.”
The Tennessee Star in March reported on a groundbreaking story by the Washington Post showing that from 2013 to 2017, the Obama administration ignored, downplayed, or failed to act on multiple warnings that synthetic opioid deaths were becoming an epidemic in the country. Eleven opioid medical experts pressed the administration to declare fentanyl a national public health emergency in 2016.
Last December, President Donald Trump praised Chinese President Xi Jinping who promised to consider imposing the death penalty on illicit producers of fentanyl, The Star reported.
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.