Blackburn cosponsors Republican proposal aimed at addressing nation’s opioid crisis

U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) on June 5 joined several Republican colleagues in offering a bill that would amend federal laws to modify the offenses related to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid.

“Fentanyl is deadly and it is killing Americans every single day,” Sen. Blackburn said on Monday. “It’s time the punishment fit the crime for these drug traffickers.”

Sen. Blackburn introduced the Ending the Fentanyl Crisis Act of 2019, S. 1724, with bill sponsor U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) and fellow cosponsors U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Ben Sasse (R-NE). The bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act and the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act to increase sentencing penalties for trafficking fentanyl.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), pharmaceutical fentanyl was developed for pain management treatment of cancer patients, applied in a patch on the skin. However, because of its powerful opioid properties, fentanyl is also diverted for abuse, says the DEA.

“Fentanyl is added to heroin to increase its potency, or be disguised as highly potent heroin,” the DEA says. “Many users believe that they are purchasing heroin and actually don’t know that they are purchasing fentanyl – which often results in overdose deaths.”

If enacted, S. 1724 would reduce the amount of fentanyl that drug traffickers and dealers must be caught with in order for mandatory sentencing minimums to apply, according to a summary of the bill provided by Sen. Blackburn’s office.

Currently, sentencing guidelines dictate that a trafficker with two grams of fentanyl gets sentenced the same as a trafficker holding five grams of heroin, despite fentanyl being 50 times deadlier than heroin, the summary says.

S. 1724 has been referred to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.