A local lawmaker is demanding accountability from China and their role in Americas opioid epidemic.
On Monday, New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez announced the Fentanyl Sanctions Act. The federal legislation would impose sanctions on China and Chinese entities who supply and support the trafficking of fentanyl, a synthetic opiate 50 times more potent than heroin, in the United States.
"Over the past five years, fentanyl poured into our country from China and saturated our communities with deadly consequences," Sen. Menendez, a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said during a press conference in Camden, New Jersey.
Last summer, DEA agents raided a Chinese cargo ship at the Port of Philadelphia, discovering 110 pounds of fentanyl worth about $1.7 million.
"If it had gotten in the street it would have killed an enormous amount of people," Menendez said.
Under the legislation, companies producing fentanyl would be blacklisted from U.S. markets. The Act would also invest in port security and expand access to life-saving treatment while holding the Chinese government accountable for enforcing their recently announced ban on all fentanyl.
"The bottom line is that we cannot simply take Chinas word for it when they say theyll crack down on fentanyl manufacturers—especially when American lives are at stake," Sen. Menendez said. "With the Fentanyl Sanctions Act, we can send a clear message to the Chinese government that says your actions will have consequences."
The Act would also allow new funding to law enforcement and intelligence agencies to fight foreign opioid trafficking and establish a commission that would monitor U.S. efforts and report on more effective ways to fight the flow of synthetic opioids from China, Mexico and other countries.
In 2018, 3,163 New Jersey residents died from an opioid overdose with 312 in Camden County. In 60% of those cases, fentanyl was to blame. The epidemic hit Camden city especially hard.