Republican Rep. Mike Lawler of New York will introduce a bill to make fentanyl trafficking an offense of attempted murder under federal law, according to a copy of the bill obtained exclusively by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Concern about the proliferation of fentanyl, a highly lethal synthetic opioid that is widely used across the United States, has prompted bipartisan calls in Congress to crack down on fentanyl trafficking, much of which occurs across the U.S. border with Mexico. Lawler’s bill, known as the Fentanyl Kills Act, would enable federal prosecutors to charge drug traffickers who “produce, manufacture, distribute, sell, or knowingly finance or transport” with attempted murder charges, according to the bill’s text.
“Any individual who has [been] found to [have] trafficked fentanyl shall be deemed to have attempted to perpetrate murder,” the bill reads.
Lawler’s co-sponsors for the bill are Republican Reps. David Valadao of California and Jim Baird of Indiana.
The bill goes on to define “trafficked fentanyl” expansively — including any efforts to manufacture fentanyl outside the United States that is intended for transportation to the United States. It also expands the penalty of attempted murder charges to the manufacturing of precursor chemicals that are used to produce fentanyl.
“The fentanyl crisis that is gripping our country and local communities is a serious problem, and requires serious consequences for those who peddle this dangerous drug,” said Lawler in a statement to the DCNF. “The Fentanyl Kills Act takes drug traffickers head-on, imposing serious penalties for these criminals who know exactly what they are doing.”
Fentanyl is the most lethal drug in the United States and is responsible for approximately two-thirds of all 107,081 overdose deaths nationwide in 2022, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is “100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin,” according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
A fatal dose of fentanyl may be as little as 2 milligrams, per the DEA. Drug dealers who sell other drugs often mix fentanyl with their products to increase their potency and fuel drug addictions by customers.
Because of its lethality, several groups have mounted efforts to make fentanyl trafficking an offense of homicide, such as Drug-Induced Homicide, a California-based organization that campaigns for “Alexandra’s Law” to enable repeat fentanyl offenders to be charged with homicide.
Left-wing groups have often opposed strengthening criminal penalties on drug traffickers and argued that such measures will disproportionately hurt racial minorities.
“Seventy-five percent of those sentenced in fentanyl cases are people of color, which means Black and brown communities are going to lose the most,” an ACLU representative wrote after Congress passed a bill to make fentanyl a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act.
Lawler’s bill would require Democratic votes to pass the Senate.
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