Republican Representatives Back Bill That Would Make Fentanyl Distribution a Felony Murder Offense

Lawmakers say current legislation is insufficient 'to account for the extreme and potentially widespread deaths'

Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Tony Gonzales have introduced in their respective chambers a bill incriminating the consequences of fentanyl distribution.

Under the Felony Murder for Deadly Fentanyl Distribution Act, an individual can be charged with felony murder for the distribution of illicit fentanyl that results in death.

The Republicans have been joined by 12 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and 12 co-sponsors in the Senate.

Fentanyl’s precursor chemicals often originate from China, after which they are manufactured into fentanyl and smuggled across the Southern Border into the United States,” Rubio and Gonzales said in a joint statement on Sept. 16. “In many cases, victims are completely unaware a substance is laced with fentanyl until it is too late. Instead, dealers routinely and intentionally mix the drug with other substances including cocaine, heroin, and meth, or have it ‘pressed’ into pills that are made to resemble authentic prescription pills that are often sold and marketed to unsuspecting youth.”

Currently, the Controlled Substances Act makes the distribution of all Schedule 1 and Schedule II substances punishable by a 20-year minimum and no more than a life sentence.

Rubio and Gonzales say this “fails to account for the extreme and potentially widespread deaths that can only result from fentanyl distribution.”

“Dealing in fentanyl, like other felony murder eligible crimes including kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, and arson, is inherently dangerous to human life,” the legislators wrote. “China’s announcement to suspend any cooperation with the United States in preventing the trafficking of fentanyl and its precursor chemicals fuels the potential for a sharp increase in deaths from fentanyl and increases the urgency for Congress to act.” 

The Center for Disease Control reports illicitly produced fentanyl is the number one cause of overdose death in the United States. The drug is the leading cause of death among adults between the ages of 18 and 45. 

Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and less than 2 milligrams can be fatal.

The National Center for Drug Abuse Statics reports that fentanyl is a factor in 53% of overdose deaths and has outpaced prescription drug-related opioid overdoses by 550.94%. The organization also states that 1 kilogram of fentanyl contains 250,000 lethal doses.

The number of overdose deaths caused by fentanyl has steadily increased since the late 1990s. In 2010, just over 3,000 Americans died as a result of a fentanyl overdose. That number climbed during the following decade with more than 56,500 overdose death in 2020 alone. 

“Fentanyl is being smuggled through our southern border at record levels. Not only has this lethal drug led to thousands of American deaths, but cartels are now targeting our children and young people,” said Congressman Gonzales. “With the Biden Administration failing to resolve this national security crisis, it is time for Congress to take matters into its own hands.” 

“Fentanyl is killing Americans at a record high,” Rubio added. “This deadly drug is widespread throughout our country and has left no community untouched. This bill would make drug dealers pay the price for selling deadly fentanyl.”

The bill is among a number of legislative efforts designed to increase federal resources available to combat the fentanyl crisis in America. 

The same day Rubio and Gonzales announced their legislation, Kansas Senator Roger Marshall introduced the Cooper Davis Act. The policy is named for a 16-year-old boy who died in 2021 after taking half a fake Percocet pill that contained a lethal dose of fentanyl that he purchased through a Missouri drug dealer he reportedly connected with on Snapchat.

“The Cooper Davis Act requires social media companies to report all illicit drug activity occurring on their platforms to law enforcement,” said Marshall during a press conference in Overland Park. “Making this critical data accessible will empower state and local law enforcement to combat fake fentanyl-laced pills, and prosecute those who prey on America’s youth.”

Eight Republicans are currently co-sponsoring Colorado Congresswomen Lauren Boebert’s Fentanyl is a WMD Act, which aims to classify the illicit substance as a weapon of mass destruction to allow the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies to lead a coordinated effort to prevent the substance’s distribution in America.

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