Rooney, Donovan reintroduce legislation to crack down on synthetic opioids

With the distribution of illicit fentanyl on the rise, U.S. Reps. Tom Rooney (R-FL) and Dan Donovan (R-NY) sought to toughen federal criminal laws to reflect the dangers of synthetic opioids and those who produce and sell counterfeit painkillers.

The Comprehensive Fentanyl Control Act would add up to five years to the sentences of drug traffickers who cut controlled substances with fentanyl and would reduce the minimum possession threshold to trigger mandatory minimum sentences.

“Every time I am home, I hear from local enforcement officials, health care providers and veterans service officers who all consistently tell me that opioid abuse, and fentanyl specifically, is one of the most difficult public health and safety issues in our communities,” Rooney said.

“This bill will give the (Drug Enforcement Administration) DEA the ability to adapt and quickly respond to Chinese manufacturers of illicit fentanyl, who change the chemical composition of the drug to deliberately get around outdated and ineffective U.S. trafficking laws. This drug is too deadly to wait — we need to act quickly and not let the slog of bureaucracy keep us from saving lives,” Rooney added.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the increase in opioid overdose deaths across the country is attributable to the rise in the manufacturing and distribution of illicit fentanyl coming from China, which is shipped to Mexico and trafficked across the U.S. border.

The measure would also make it illegal to mail pill presses to unauthorized users who can use them to mass produce counterfeit painkillers, forcing online auction sites to remove these products from their sites and effectively banning their sale.

“As a former prosecutor, I have seen firsthand the devastation caused by drug addiction,” Donovan said. “While our nation works to address the opioid abuse epidemic, it’s critical that we distinguish between those struggling with addiction and the traffickers who enable them.”

“Drug traffickers are intentionally lacing their products with synthetic opioids like fentanyl — knowing that their actions lead to overdoses and death. Society can’t cure this dark branch of the drug problem with medically-assisted treatment and therapy; only law enforcement agents and judges can meet the threat,” Donovan said.

The bill, Donovan concluded, would give law enforcers the tools they need to “meet the fentanyl threat, which will save countless lives.”

The CDC estimates that more than 52,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2015, with about two-thirds of those deaths attributed to opioids, including prescription painkillers and heroin.