Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Co-Sponsors Bill to Intercept Killer Opioids from China

Dec 2, 2016
Press Release
Legislation Toughens Screening of Overseas Shipments into the U.S.

Manatee County Has Most Fentanyl-Related Deaths in Florida

WASHINGTON – Congressman Vern Buchanan announced 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.

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 addressing the heroin crisis, we are now confronting a new 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 and Manatee Counties, where officials have warned about an increase in the number of overdoses due to fentanyl and carfentanil. Synthetic fentanyl variations have been found in 41 fatal overdoses so far this year, according to the medical examiner for Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties.

Manatee County Sheriff-elect Rick Wells praised the new legislation co-sponsored by Buchanan, saying, “This is an important bill that will help reduce the amount of fentanyl and carfentanil entering the United States. It’s critical that we cut the head off of the snake and put an end to the destruction these synthetic drugs are causing in our communities.”

Manatee County ranks highest in the state for the number of fentanyl-related deaths, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Medical Examiners Commission.

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.

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.

Specifically, the STOP Act, introduced by Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, would require shipments from foreign countries through the U.S. postal system 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. Currently the USPS does not adequately screen all “non-letter” packages entering our country from abroad for dangerous or illegal contents.

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.

In Florida, fentanyl-related deaths increased by 77.6 percent last year when compared to 2014, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement Medical Examiners Commission.

The Congressman has been an active leader in addressing the opioid crisis in Florida. In May, Buchanan chaired a hearing examining the impact of addiction on kids. Earlier this year he 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.