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Senators Cotton, Schumer, Colleagues Introduce Targeted Fentanyl Sanctions Bill

April 4, 2019

Contact Caroline Tabler or James Arnold (202) 224-2353

Washington, D.C. - Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Chuck Schumer (D-New York), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) today introduced the Fentanyl Sanctions Act-the first-ever fentanyl sanctions bill that would apply pressure on the Chinese government to honor its commitment to make all forms of synthetic opioids illegal and provide U.S. law enforcement with more tools and resources to go after illicit traffickers in China, Mexico, and other countries.

"China is the world's largest drug dealer. For years, the Chinese government has allowed fentanyl and other synthetic opioids to pour into the United States, killing tens of thousands of Americans. Although China has fulfilled a promise to the president by formally banning all forms of fentanyl, we have to make sure they keep their word. Our bipartisan bill will give law enforcement and intelligence agencies the tools they need to apply maximum pressure to fentanyl producers, traffickers, cartels, and other criminals who are funneling this poison across our borders and into our communities," said Cotton.

"Combating the flow of illicit fentanyl into our country is imperative in the fight to save American lives from the opioid crisis. We must hold China accountable for their role in the fentanyl trade. China's new regulation to make all fentanyl categories illegal is an important step and the administration deserves praise for their efforts to secure this change. However, we have to demonstrate that we will demand China enforce these laws and take strong action against opioid traffickers," said Schumer. "Our legislation would apply pressure on China to actually follow through and would equip the administration with tools to systematically go after the major manufacturers and traffickers of fentanyl before the killer drug gets to the U.S."

"On average, 11 Ohioans will die every day in my state due to an opioid overdose," said Brown. "The addiction epidemic has taken too many lives and caused too much devastation in Ohio. This new bill will add effective new sanctions tools to help combat the flood of illicit fentanyl coming in primarily from China and from Mexico, and help provide intelligence and funding to keep these dangerous drugs out of Ohio communities."

"The flow of illicit fentanyl largely from China into the U.S. poses serious threats to our families, public health, economic vitality, and national security," said Rubio. "With Florida suffering thousands of opioid-related deaths per year, we must do all we can to stop the opioid crisis sweeping across America and devastating our communities. This bipartisan effort to impose targeted sanctions on foreign illicit fentanyl manufacturers and traffickers makes clear that the U.S. will hold the Communist Chinese Government and other nations fully accountable when they turn a blind eye to international fentanyl trafficking."

Specifically, the legislation would:

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

Following a commitment to the United States at the G-20 in December 2018, Chinese regulators announced on April 1, 2019 that a wider range of fentanyl derivatives would be declared controlled substances in China on May 1, 2019. China already has problems enforcing its current drug laws and continues to deny that its illicit fentanyl producers are major contributors to the U.S. opioid crisis. To increase accountability, the Fentanyl Sanctions Act would pressure the Chinese government to aggressively enforce its new laws and provide the U.S. government with flexible sanctions tools to go after drug traffickers in China and other countries.

The bill summary can be found here.