Trump Signs Bill To Boost Funding To Target Illegal Fentanyl Imports

By Kelly Burch 01/17/18

The legislation will give Customs a much-needed financial boost to help identify fentanyl and other synthetic opioids before they enter the country.

Donald Trump

President Trump last week signed into law a bill that will provide Customs and Border Protection with $9 million in additional funding to improve detection of fentanyl being smuggled into the country in mailed packages and on travelers. 

The INTERDICT Act received bipartisan support and will help finance screening devices, lab equipment and additional personnel to try and stop the deadly synthetic opioid from coming into the country. 

At the bill’s signing, Trump called fentanyl “our new big scourge,” saying that the INTERDICT Act is “an important step to halt the flood of deadly drugs that are pouring into our country like never before,” according to Wicked Local

The bill was sponsored by Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ed Markey. The senator pointed out that of the approximately 2,000 people who overdosed in his state in 2016, 1,700 had fentanyl in their systems. 

“So this is the epidemic,” Markey told the president at the signing. “It’s gone from prescription drugs to heroin, but it is now a fentanyl epidemic in the country, and the legislation you are signing will give the tools to our law enforcement, to our detection people in the country to be able to identify it before it gets into the hands of families in our country. So we thank you.”

Another Massachusetts Democrat, U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, praised Trump’s signing of the bill, but at the same time challenged him to reconsider his administration’s stance on marijuana. 

“It’s a testament to what can happen for the benefit of the American people when we come together on a scourge such as fentanyl and the opioid addiction,” Tsongas said. “And I encourage you to focus your efforts on further funding and thinking about opioids—and marijuana we can talk about at another time.”

Fentanyl flooding the heroin supply has been blamed for the increase in deaths from opioids, with Congress even referring to the drug as the “third wave” of the opioid epidemic last year.

Stopping fentanyl imports has proven difficult for authorities. The drug is said to be manufactured abroad, particularly in China, and shipped into the U.S. in seemingly harmless packages. 

A loophole in the international mailing system exacerbates the problem, authorities say. 

“Due to a loophole in the global postal system, packages sent via private couriers (like UPS or FedEx) are required to have the advance electronic data used by law enforcement to screen and stop dangerous material, while packages shipped via foreign postal services are not,” Alex Wolff, of the bipartisan coalition Americans for Securing All Packages, said recently. 

Legislation to close the loophole has been introduced but has not moved forward. 

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