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Brown offers bill to reduce flow of fentanyl to U.S.

By Tom Jackson • Jun 11, 2019 at 4:00 PM

SANDUSKY — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown is urging support for his bipartisan bill to stem the flow of fentanyl into the U.S.

The senator pushed for his Fentanyl Sanctions Act during a phone call with Ohio reporters. He spoke as reports continued to come in about another spike in overdose deaths in cities such as Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus.

“On average, 14 Ohioans will die every day in my state due to an opioid overdose,” Brown said. “The addiction crisis has taken too many lives and caused too much devastation in Ohio.”

Brown said the measure would pressure China to live up to its recent ban on manufacturing fentanyl.

Brown’s office said the bill would:

• Impose sanctions on foreign organizations that deal in drugs, including Chinese manufacturers and Mexican organizations.

• Authorize additional funding to law enforcement organizations and intelligence agencies to fight trafficking in opioids.

• Urge the president to engage in diplomacy with other countries to use sanctions and other tools to fight drug trafficking.

• Establish a National Commission on Synthetic Opioid Trafficking to study how to combat the flow of synthetic opioids from other countries.

According to a widely-read blog posting by illegal drug expert Mark A.R. Kleiman, a professor of public policy at New York University, stopping the flow of fentanyl is very difficult.

In “A primer on fentanyls,” posted in 2018 at samefacts.com, Kleiman wrote the ability of traffickers to send fentanyl in packages “makes a hard problem nearly impossible.”

“The volume of legitimate parcel post from China to the U.S. means that there’s no way to scan every package, or even a high enough fraction to make the traffic uneconomic,” Kleiman wrote.

“As more and more potent molecules appear, I’d expect another shift, from parcel post to regular international mail, moving the drugs in quantities of a gram or less, either just putting a tiny Baggie with the powder inside in the envelope, or perhaps dissolving the drug, soaking a sheet of ordinary paper in the solution, typing a letter on the paper, mailing it, and then extracting the drug at the other end of the process.”

Kleiman wrote even if efforts to pressure China to succeed, they likely won’t do much good.

“It’s possible that, with adequate urging from the U.S., the Chinese authorities might succeed in cracking down on illicit manufacture and sale. But there’s nothing magical about China. India also has skilled chemists and a huge flow of mail to the U.S. So, for that matter, does Canada. And so does the U.S.; if international sources dry up, the stuff will, once again, be made here,” he wrote.

Kleiman wrote that the current drug epidemic might burn itself out but that other synthetic drugs likely will come along.

Brown said he realizes that the U.S. can’t keep every gram of fentanyl from coming in.

The efforts to deal with supply must be combined with scaling up treatment, preserving Medicaid, providing education and prevention, and other steps. The U.S. has made real progress in cutting cigarette smoking and similar efforts must be made with drugs, Brown said.

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