WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Lawmakers say most of the illegal synthetic painkiller fentanyl that has killed so many Americans is manufactured and smuggled into the U.S. from China.
Over the past 20 years, deaths from those kinds of drugs have increased six-fold.
China has promised to crack down on the producers and smugglers. But some lawmakers aren’t willing to rely on the country’s promises, so they’ve introduced the Fentanyl Sanctions Act, which would put pressure on the Chinese government to follow through and stop the deadly flow of fentanyl into the U.S. at its source or face economic sanctions.
One of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, says he wants the illegal drug off the streets.
“Fentanyl has been absolutely devastating to the state of Pennsylvania,” he said. “In Pennsylvania, 70% of all fatal drug overdoses the victim has some amount of fentanyl in their system.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says fentanyl has claimed the lives of more than 28,000 Americans since 2017.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, says the legislation is the first-ever to give “broad and powerful sanction tools to the administration to target illicit fentanyl producers.”
“Impose sanctions on entities that are really in any way significantly involved in the production, financing, or distribution of fentanyl,” Toomey further explained.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, says China has failed to respond appropriately to fentanyl in the past.
“For one simple reason and that is the people who are doing this – that are manufacturing this and handing it off to traffickers – are making a lot of money,” Rubio said.
But the lawmakers are encouraged that this time China will comply.
“The Chinese government announced, consistent with our demands, China is now going to ban the entire class, the entire category – so all of fentanyl,” Toomey said.
Toomey hopes China’s promise, along with the potential sanctions of this legislation, might help loosen the deadly grip of the drug on the U.S.