Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan, Bipartisan Group Back Bill to Stop Chinese Opioids

Feb 22, 2017
Press Release
Toughens Screening of Shipments into the U.S.

Manatee County Has Most Fentanyl-Related Deaths in Florida

WASHINGTON – Congressman Vern Buchanan said today he has co-sponsored legislation to toughen screening of overseas shipments of deadly synthetic drugs coming into the United States.

The Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act will help stem the flow of dangerous drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil by requiring more intensive screening at U.S. Postal Service facilities. Fentanyl and carfentanil are synthetic drugs similar to heroin but more than 50 times more powerful. These drugs are often manufactured in foreign countries like China and mailed into the United States.

Specifically, the STOP Act, introduced last week by Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, Rep. Buchanan and five other members of Congress from both parties, would require shipments from foreign countries through the U.S. Postal Service to provide electronic advance data stating information such as where and who the package is coming from, where and who it’s going to, and what’s inside. FedEx, UPS and other private sector carriers are already required to provide this information. Currently the USPS does not adequately screen all “non-letter” packages entering our country from abroad for dangerous or illegal contents.

Experts have cautioned the synthetic drugs, which are odorless and colorless and therefore more difficult to detect, are now being mixed with heroin by dealers to boost profit margins and give a more potent and potentially deadly high for users.

“While our community is making progress to curb the heroin crisis, we are now confronting a growing threat – fentanyl,” Buchanan said. “If we want to save lives and reduce overdose deaths we must stop these new killer drugs from crossing the border.”

Buchanan represents Sarasota, Manatee and part of Hillsborough counties, where officials have warned about an increase in the number of overdoses due to fentanyl and carfentanil.

Manatee County ranked highest in the state for the number of fentanyl-related deaths in 2015, according to the latest figures from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Medical Examiners Commission. The same report also cited the fact that statewide, fentanyl-related deaths increased by more than 77 percent from 2014 to 2015.

These substances can come in several forms, including powder, tablets and spray and can be absorbed through the skin or by accidental inhalation. Carfentanil is an incredibly powerful synthetic opioid normally used to tranquilize large animals like elephants, and up to 100 times stronger than its cousin fentanyl. A lethal dose of fentanyl can be as small as two or three grains of salt, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The U.S. experienced a 79 percent spike in deaths from synthetic opioid overdoses, including fentanyl, from 2014 to 2015 according to a just-released study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And in 2015, a record amount of fentanyl was seized by American law enforcement according to a study by a U.S. government commission on China.

Fentanyl and carfentanil are both so hazardous that first responders often wear protective gear when responding to a crime scene where the synthetic drugs may be present.

With this advance information, U.S. Customs and Border Protection can better target potential illegal packages and prevent dangerous drugs from ending up in the hands of traffickers.

The bill also makes clear that U.S. citizens are not required to pay for this process, which is the industry standard for other imports.

Buchanan co-sponsored similar legislation in December during the last Congress, but Congress failed to take action on the bill before the session ended.

The Congressman has been an active leader in addressing the opioid crisis in Florida. Last May, Buchanan chaired a hearing examining the impact of addiction on kids. He also hosted a roundtable in Bradenton, Fla. with local police officers, medical professionals and stakeholders. Buchanan also chaired a meeting of the bipartisan 29-member Florida congressional delegation in Washington, DC where members heard testimony from anti-drug experts. Buchanan serves as co-chair of the Florida delegation. In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration and the DEA adopted Buchanan’s proposal to make it more difficult for abusers to obtain certain highly addictive narcotics.