A bill authored by local Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick and Democratic Congresswoman Niki Tsongas passed the House of Representatives Tuesday.
The International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology (INTERDICT) Act [H.R. 2142] was approved by a bipartisan 412-3 vote and will now move to the Senate.
The legislation will provide U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with technology to screen and detect fentanyl and other deadly synthetic opioids as they come across point of entry. Based on guidance from CBP, the bill would provide $15 million for adding new screening devices, laboratory equipment, facilities and personnel for support during all operational hours.
From the congressman’s office:
Fentanyl is a deadly synthetic opioid that can be up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Although pharmaceutical fentanyl can be misused, most fentanyl deaths are linked to illicitly manufactured fentanyl and illicit versions of chemically similar compounds known as fentanyl analogs. Between 2014 and 2015, deaths involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl rose 72 percent, amounting to 9,500 deaths. The primary source of fentanyl is outside of the United States, in Mexico or China. The drug is smuggled in across the U.S. border or delivered via mail or express consignment couriers. Fentanyl can also be ordered online. Because of its potency, fentanyl typically comes in small amounts, making it more difficult for authorities to detect.
“The INTERDICT Act is bipartisan legislation that provides U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) access to the latest in chemical screening devices and scientific support to detect and intercept synthetic opioids before they can cause more harm. I am grateful for the leadership of Rep. Tsongas and the support of the House to pass this critical measure in a bipartisan fashion. I urge the Senate to act quickly and save lives,” Fitzpatrick said.
Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub spoke in support of the legislation and said it will help save lives if approved.
“Heroin and other opiates are killing our citizens. When misused or abused, fentanyl is much deadlier than heroin. We must take an all-out approach in stemming the tide of illegal drugs available for abuse. Law enforcement will continue to play a critical role in this battle against the drug scourge and the criminals who peddle this poison,” Weintraub said.
Fitzpatrick’s office noted the INTERDICT Act was mentioned in the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis’ interim report.