CAMDEN, NJU.S. Sen. Robert Menendez was in Camden Monday, April 8, to announce new legislation that would impose steep sanctions on China and Chinese entities who supply and support fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opiate that is 50 times more potent than heroin.

Menendez was joined by city and county officials at the Camden waterfront, directly across the Delaware River from the Port of Philadelphia, where last summer inspectors seized 110 pounds of fentanyl, worth $1.7 million, from a Chinese cargo ship.

“Today’s battle against opioids looks very different than it did just a few years ago. Over the last five years, the potent synthetic opioid known as fentanyl has poured into the country from China and saturated our communities with deadly consequences,” Menendez said.

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According to Menendez, there were 3,163 opioid-related deaths in New Jersey in 2018. In the first three months of 2019, there have been more than 600, Menendez said, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse attributed the largest increase due to synthetic fentanyl. The Center for Disease Control said there were more than 28,000 deaths in 2017 related to synthetic opioids (other than methadone).

Earlier this year, in its largest ever bust, 254 pounds of fentanyl pills and powder were found hidden in a cucumber truck that was seized by US Customs and Border Protection officers at the Arizona-Mexican border.

“I’ve spent years fighting for better security at our ports, including making sure that every piece of cargo is scanned for illegal drugs, weapons and other threats. But China shouldn’t be trafficking this venomous drug into the United States to begin with. It has to stop.”

The bipartisan bill, known as the Fentanyl Sanctions Act, is co-sponsored by Menendez and U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-New York), Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire).

The bill, if passed, would provide $1 billion dollars over five years to:

  • Impose sanctions on drug manufacturers in China who knowingly provide synthetic opioids to traffickers, transnational criminal organizations like those in Mexico who mix fentanyl with other drugs and traffic them into the US and financial institutions that assist such entities
  • Authorize new funding to law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including the Departments of Treasury, Department of Defense and Department of State, to combat the foreign trafficking of opioids
  • Urge the President of the United States to commence diplomatic efforts with US partners to establish multilateral sanctions against foreign opioid traffickers
  • Establish a Commission on Synthetic Opioid Trafficking to monitor US efforts and report on how to more effectively combat the flow of synthetic opioids from China, Mexico and elsewhere.

“Last December, I was encouraged to see the administration push China to ban a wider range of fentanyl-related substances from being manufactured in their country,” Menendez said. “But as we all know, China has a long history of disregarding its international obligations and struggling to enforce its own drug laws. We need real accountability if we want to save American lives,” Menedez said.

 

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