Legislation is aimed at stopping dealers from making drugs
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
With the opioid addiction rate continuing to climb nationwide, U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan is reviving legislation aimed at stopping drug dealers from using pill presses to manufacture counterfeit painkillers.
Donovan (R-C-Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island) announced that he and fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Florida) reintroduced the Comprehensive Fentanyl Control Act on March 31. The bill seeks to update federal laws to reflect the potency of synthetic opioids like fentanyl, Donovan said.
Illicit fentanyl made from pill presses can be deadly, even in small doses, and according to Donovan, who cited figures from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Part of the problem is that drug traffickers are lacing heroin and other substances with small traces of illicit fentanyl to boost the potency of the drugs and increase their profit margins, said Donovan, who is the former district attorney of Staten Island.
The bill would add up to five years to the sentence of a drug trafficker who cuts any controlled substance with fentanyl. It would also reduce from 400 grams to 20 grams the minimum fentanyl possession threshold to trigger mandatory minimum sentences.
Opioid overdoses in the U.S. can be attributed in part to the availability of pill presses, devices that can be purchased online and are being used by criminals to create counterfeit painkillers that contain lethal doses of fentanyl, the lawmaker said.
Donovan also pointed to research by the a finding by U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that reported a shocking increase in overdose deaths across the country is also attributable to the rise in the distribution of fentanyl coming from China, which is shipped to Mexico and trafficked across the U.S. border.
“As a former prosecutor, I have seen firsthand the devastation caused by drug addiction. While our nation works to address the opioid abuse epidemic, it’s critical that we distinguish between those struggling with addiction and the traffickers who enable them. Drug traffickers are intentionally lacing their products with synthetic opioids like fentanyl knowing that their actions lead to overdoses and death. Society can't cure this dark branch of the drug problem with medically assisted treatment and therapy; only law enforcement agents and judges can meet the threat,” Donovan said in a statement.
Donovan and Rooney met with representatives of law enforcement agencies to solicit feedback before drafting the legislation.
“Every time I am home, I hear from local enforcement officials, health care providers and veterans service officers who all consistently tell me that opioid abuse, and fentanyl specifically, is one of most difficult public health and safety issues in our communities” Rooney stated.
The CDC estimates that more than 52,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2015. Approximately two-thirds of the deaths were tied to opioids, including prescription painkillers and heroin.
The Comprehensive Fentanyl Control Act was originally introduced during the 114th Congress.
In 2016, Donovan and Rooney co-sponsored and worked for the passage of another bill, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which authorizes grants for local addiction treatment programs, education efforts and enforcement measures.
Funding for the programs were included in the budget passed by Congress and signed into law in September.