Congressman Westerman: Combatting the Fentanyl Crisis
by Congressman Bruce Westerman
In Fiscal Year 2023 alone, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized over 14,000 pounds of fentanyl coming across the southern border. That’s enough to kill the entire U.S. population ten times (3.1 BILLION people).
The drug cartels are flowing illicit fentanyl across our southern border at unprecedented rates, and it’s plaguing our communities, killing more Americans than ever before. Fentanyl is much easier to produce than cocaine and heroin – it only takes a few hours to make – and it can be sold for a hundred times more than what it costs to make. And since small doses of fentanyl are incredibly potent, it’s easier for criminals to illegally smuggle small batches across the border.
Just last year, over 109,000 people died of overdoses, roughly 75,000 of whom died from synthetic opioids – largely illicit fentanyl or related substances. Make no mistake; the fentanyl crisis is not just happening at the southern border. Fentanyl and other lethal drugs are flowing over the border and making their way into communities like ours. Right here at home in Arkansas, more than 625 people died from drug overdoses in 2021.
Fentanyl does not care if you’re young or old, healthy or unhealthy, a Republican or Democrat; it’s an incredibly lethal substance.
Under current law, fentanyl-related substances will no longer be Schedule 1 and largely legal starting in 2025 unless the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) schedules each specific chemical formula one by one. I co-sponsored the HALT Fentanyl Act that would make the class-wide scheduling order for fentanyl-related substances permanent to remove the incentive for creating new fentanyl-related substances by cartels and criminals.
H.R. 467, the HALT Fentanyl Act, passed out of the House this week. Its passage is an essential step in the right direction in protecting our nation from this epidemic that has already claimed far too many lives. The legislation will support research efforts to understand the impact of fentanyl-related substances and ensures law enforcement has the tools and resources needed to keep these dangerous drugs off our streets and out of the hands of our younger generations.
Earlier this week, we passed a bipartisan bill that will require the Government Accountability Office to carry out a study on illicit financing in connection with the trafficking of synthetic drugs, including fentanyl. This research will produce vital data to help combat the fentanyl crisis. However, we’ve seen enough to know how serious this epidemic has become. We must act, which comes with legislation to secure the border and support our law enforcement, two key pieces that House Republicans have already passed. We won’t sit by while lethal drugs like fentanyl continue to take the lives of Americans, and legislation like the HALT Fentanyl Act will be instrumental in the fight to protect our nation from this epidemic.