Congressman Tim Ryan Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Stop Fentanyl Trafficking

Dec 3, 2015 Issues: Health Care

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Tom Rooney (R-FL) introduced the Stop Trafficking in Fentanyl Act of 2015, a bill that amends the Controlled Substances Act to ensure the law appropriately reflects the potency of the opioid fentanyl.

Fentanyl is an extremely dangerous synthetic opioid drug that has recently been attributed to an increase of fatal overdoses. The Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA’s) assessment is that fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin. Fentanyl is typically prescribed for pharmaceutical purposes, usually to ease extreme pain for patients in finals stages of diseases like cancer. The drug is similar to morphine but can be up to 100 times more powerful.

The Stop Trafficking of Fentanyl Act would reduce the amount of fentanyl needed to invoke the most serious trafficking penalties for an individual trafficking and manufacturing the drug. The bill would lower the threshold that triggers federal penalties from 400 grams to 20 grams to ensure that the law appropriately reflects the extreme strength of the drug, which can be fatal in doses as small as 0.25 mg. The DEA has also issued warnings to law enforcement as fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin and accidental inhalation of airborne powder can also occur.

In 2014, Ohio ranked number one in the number of fentanyl seizures correlating directly to an increase in fentanyl-related deaths. Ohio reported 514 fentanyl-related overdoses in 2014 compared to 93 in 2013.

“Ohio has seen yet another record-breaking year for overdose-related deaths, many due to fentanyl. We are losing too many of our friends, neighbors, and relatives to this destructive drug epidemic. I am proud to join Congressman Rooney in introducing this important legislation that will help get these drugs off the street.  We must respond to this crisis from all sides by improving coordination to reduce the number of drugs available, while also increasing and expanding access to treatment for those who are suffering,” said Congressman Ryan.

The state of Florida has seen a significant increase in fentanyl related deaths in the past few years. In 2014, Manatee County had the highest amount of fentanyl related deaths in the state of Florida and one of the highest in the country.

“My concern is that without action, these overdose figures are only going to get worse,” said Congressman Rooney. “Under the current law, the threshold amount to invoke penalties is not appropriate with the strength of the drug. Individuals who are trafficking and profiting off fentanyl need to be adequately prosecuted in the hopes of stopping the alarming rising rate of fatal overdoses. We need to update our laws to get this incredibly dangerous synthetic drug off of the streets.”