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Wyden announces ‘decisive’ anti-fentanyl legislation in defense bill

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The United States Senate will debate this week the annual defense bill. Oregon U.S. Senator Ron Wyden along with fellow lawmakers announced yesterday a key aspect of the defense bill aimed at stemming the flow of fentanyl at its source, and imposing sanctions on fentanyl traffickers.

The Fentanyl Eradication and Narcotics Deterrence (FEND) Off Fentanyl Act within the defense bill, brings the resources of the federal government into the fight against the illicit opioid through the use of sanctions, Suspicious Activity Reports, law enforcement, progress reports, sale of sanctioned assets and a national emergency declaration.

An update released last Tuesday by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on Drug Seizures disclosed, “To date in FY 2023, CBP has seized more than 22,000 pounds of fentanyl – compared with 8,300 pounds over the same period in FY 2022.”

In fact fentanyl seizures to date are more than all of last year’s total of 14,700 pounds and more than triple the amount of just three years ago.

“Under Operation Blue Lotus 2.0, which launched on June 12, CBP and HSI have also continued to surge resources to ports of entry, where 90% of fentanyl is trafficked primarily in cars and trucks. This operation has seized over 1,500 pounds of fentanyl and over 23,000 pounds of other narcotics..”

Fentanyl precursors made in China for the production of fentanyl products are being shipped to drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) like the Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco Cartel in Mexico, where they are made into products to be trafficked in communities across the United States.

As the largest producer of illicit fentanyl, and fentanyl chemicals, China also ships to criminal organizations in Canada and the Caribbean.

“Despite diligent law enforcement work, overdoses and deaths from fentanyl and fentanyl-laced drugs in Oregon have continued unabated, and now it’s time to stop the trafficking of fentanyl at a major source: China,” Senator Wyden declared.

Last month in a letter to the Acting Commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Mr. Troy A. Miller, Senator Wyden detailed the “deeply disturbing volumes” of fentanyl intercepted by Oregon’s law enforcement and urged the organization to do more through information-sharing between CBP and Oregon’s law enforcement agencies.

“While I appreciate these efforts on the national level, much more needs to be done to stop drugs flooding the I-5 and I-84 corridors. Action must be taken directly in the communities ravaged by fentanyl. While local, state and federal law enforcement are hard at work separately, more can be done through cooperation,” Wyden wrote.

The FEND Off Fentanyl Act proposes an avenue to crack down further, by declaring fentanyl trafficking across borders as a US national emergency. It gives President Joe Biden sanction powers against DTO’s and enhances enforcement of those sanctions. Proceeds from seized fentanyl assets of traffickers can be used to further law enforcement efforts.

The US Treasury Department will be empowered to use mechanisms to address money laundering and prioritize suspicious financial transactions generating descriptions of drug cartels’ financing actions in Suspicious Activity Reports.

Finally, the act would require the Biden administration to report to Congress on fentanyl-reducing actions by the government in dealing with international trafficking.

Wyden expressed his concern for the flow of fentanyl into the US stating, “In a time where we are considering funding for our national defense, Congress must take timely, decisive action to defend Americans by stopping fentanyl and its precursors at the U.S. border before it can enter our communities.”

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