What to Know
- New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez announced the Fentanyl Sanctions Act, which would hold China accountable for their role in the opioid epidemic.
- The legislation would impose sanctions on China and Chinese entities who supply and support the trafficking of fentanyl.
- The Act would also allow new funding to law enforcement and intelligence agencies to fight foreign opioid trafficking.
A local lawmaker is demanding accountability from China and their role in America’s opioid epidemic.
On Monday, New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez announced the Fentanyl Sanctions Act. The federal legislation would impose sanctions on China and Chinese entities who supply and support the trafficking of fentanyl, a synthetic opiate 50 times more potent than heroin, in the United States.
"Over the past five years, fentanyl poured into our country from China and saturated our communities with deadly consequences," Sen. Menendez, a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said during a press conference in Camden, New Jersey.
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Last summer, DEA agents raided a Chinese cargo ship at the Port of Philadelphia, discovering 110 pounds of fentanyl worth about $1.7 million.
"If it had gotten in the street it would have killed an enormous amount of people," Menendez said.
Under the legislation, companies producing fentanyl would be blacklisted from U.S. markets. The Act would also invest in port security and expand access to life-saving treatment while holding the Chinese government accountable for enforcing their recently announced ban on all fentanyl.
"The bottom line is that we cannot simply take China’s word for it when they say they’ll crack down on fentanyl manufacturers—especially when American lives are at stake," Sen. Menendez said. "With the Fentanyl Sanctions Act, we can send a clear message to the Chinese government that says your actions will have consequences."
The Act would also allow new funding to law enforcement and intelligence agencies to fight foreign opioid trafficking and establish a commission that would monitor U.S. efforts and report on more effective ways to fight the flow of synthetic opioids from China, Mexico and other countries.
In 2018, 3,163 New Jersey residents died from an opioid overdose with 312 in Camden County. In 60% of those cases, fentanyl was to blame. The epidemic hit Camden city especially hard.
"So far this year we’ve lost 63 Camden residents to an overdose," Camden County Freeholder Lou Capelli said. "We’ve had 147 Narcan deployments."
Camden also had 90 fatal overdoses in 2017, more than 2016 and 2015 combined, with fentanyl being the primary culprit, according to Camden County Metro Police Chief Scott Thomson.
"We will continue our collaboration with state and federal law enforcement partners in the relentless pursuit of those trafficking this extremely lethal product to get this poison off our streets," Chief Thomson said. "And I want to thank our representatives for putting more resources into the effort."