China Promises Tighter Ban On Fentanyl Production

By Kelly Burch 04/02/19

Officials are hopeful that this will help curb the amount of fentanyl on the streets in America. 

 Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife

China has promised to ban all “fentanyl-related substances,” in a move to appease the Trump administration.

According to The New York Times, Chinese President Xi Jinping promised the ban during a meeting with President Trump last December.

Although China had already placed restrictions against fentanyl and related drugs, manufacturers skirted these regulations by tweaking the drugs' formulations to avoid legal recourse while still supplying a drug with the same effects. 

The new ban, which takes effect on May 1st, will cover all “fentanyl-related substances.” The law removed the need for Chinese officials to review and ban analogues one by one, replacing it with a sweeping ban. 

Officials are hopeful that this will help curb the amount of fentanyl on the streets in the United States. 

“We look forward to our continued collaboration with China to reduce the amount of this deadly poison coming into our country,” said Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) spokeswoman Mary Brandenberger.

However, other officials caution that Chinese drug manufacturers can still produce the precursors of fentanyl, which can then be shipped to Mexico and assembled by cartels before being smuggled into the United States. 

In announcing the ban, Chinese officials insisted that China’s contribution to the American fentanyl problem is “extremely limited.” 

“We believe that the United States is the main cause of the problem of the abuse of fentanyl in the United States,” said vice commissioner of the National Narcotics Control Commission Liu Yuejin.

Amid trade tensions between the U.S. and China, the fentanyl policy change may signal an olive branch rather than a tough intervention. Robert Lighthizer, a trade negotiator for the Trump administration, had previously said that he would try to get a commitment from China to crack down on fentanyl production. 

University of California researcher Dr. Daniel Ciccarone said that the move may be a way for Chinese officials to claim they are cracking down, without actually having much of a real-world difference. 

“Do they have the capacity?” he said. “Or will they, like U.S. regulatory agencies often do, brag about the ‘one they got’ while whitewashing the ones that got away?”

Ciccarone added that it’s hard to intercept fentanyl shipments because the drug is shipped in much smaller quantities than cocaine or marijuana, making it difficult to detect. 

He said, “Stopping production and shipping of a much smaller-volume drug is wishing big.”

Still, he said, with fentanyl killing tens of thousands of Americans each year, the Chinese ban is a step in the right direction. 

“This effort is worthwhile even if it has a small chance of success,” he said. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.