Brown Pushes For Action on Targeted Fentanyl Sanctions Bill to Hold China Accountable as Fentanyl Deaths Continue to Spike in Ohio

Suspected Overdose Deaths Continue to Spike Throughout the State; Senator Pushed for Action on His Bipartisan Bill During Senate Banking Committee Hearing This Week

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) hosted a news conference call as he pushes for congressional action on his Fentanyl Sanctions Act. Brown’s bipartisan legislation would give U.S. officials new sanctions tools to target foreign opioid traffickers in China, Mexico and other countries, and better enable U.S. diplomats and law enforcement officials to maintain pressure on the Chinese government to implement and strictly enforce its commitment to treat all forms of illicit fentanyl as illegal. 

Cities throughout Ohio -- including Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus -- have experienced spikes in suspected overdose deaths recently and law enforcement officials believe fentanyl is largely to blame. 

“On average, 14 Ohioans will die every day in my state due to an opioid overdose,” said Brown. “The addiction crisis has taken too many lives and caused too much devastation in Ohio. This new bill will add effective new sanctions tools to help combat the flood of illicit fentanyl coming in primarily from China and from Mexico, and help provide intelligence and funding to keep these dangerous drugs out of Ohio communities.” 

Yesterday, Brown pressed members of Congress to act on the Fentanyl Sanctions Act during a hearing of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee Hearing on Combatting Threats from China. Senators on both sides of the aisle agreed that more action is needed to combat illicit synthetic opioids coming to the U.S. 

Brown was joined on today’s call by Commissioner Denise Driehaus, Chair of the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition. Hamilton County has been hit particularly hard by overdose deaths in recent weeks. Last week, the county had 11 overdose deaths and seven more the week before.   

“We are seeing an alarming increase in overdose deaths in the African American community in Hamilton County.  According to the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition Task Force, 4 of 6 deaths the weekend of May 24th were African American and 6 of 11 people referred to the Quick Response Team last week were African American.  This is a significant increase and prompted a press release to alert the community to this troubling trend,” said Driehaus. 

Brown’s Fentanyl Sanctions Act would help crack down on illegal fentanyl coming to Ohio by: 

  • Requiring imposition of sanctions on foreign drug traffickers, drug manufacturers in China who knowingly provide illicit synthetic opioids to traffickers, individuals or firms operating alone or as part of transnational criminal organizations like those in Mexico who mix fentanyl with other drugs and traffic them into the U.S., and foreign financial institutions and others that knowingly assist such trafficking; 
  • Authorizing new funding to law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including the Departments of Treasury, Defense and State, to combat the foreign trafficking of opioids; 
  • Urging the President to commence diplomatic efforts with U.S. partners to establish multilateral sanctions and to deploy other multilateral measures against foreign opioid traffickers; 
  • Establishing a National Commission on Synthetic Opioid Trafficking to monitor U.S. efforts and report on how to more effectively combat the flow of illicit synthetic opioids from China, Mexico and elsewhere.

The legislation was introduced by Brown, along with Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). 

Following a commitment to the U.S. at the G-20 in December 2018, Chinese regulators announced on April 1, 2019, that a wider range of fentanyl analogues would be declared controlled substances in China on May 1, 2019. China already has problems enforcing its current drug laws and continues to deny that its illicit fentanyl producers are a major source of illicit opioids contributing to the U.S. opioid crisis. To ensure accountability, Senators Schumer, Cotton, Brown, Rubio, Menendez, and Shaheen’s sanctions legislation would pressure the Chinese government to move forward with an aggressive plan to enforce its announced new laws and provide the U.S. executive branch with flexible new sanction tools to go after actors, from manufacturers to traffickers, in China and other countries. 

Read more about the bill here.