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Kaine Cosponsors Bipartisan Bill to Prevent Fentanyl Trafficking into the U.S.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine cosponsored bipartisan legislation to combat the country’s fentanyl crisis by more effectively penalizing those who traffic fentanyl into the United States. The FEND Off Fentanyl Act, led by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Tim Scott (R-SC), would strengthen current laws and direct the Treasury Department to target, sanction, and block the financial assets of transnational criminal organizations and others that launder money to facilitate opioid trafficking. Last week, the Treasury Department sanctioned seven entities and six individuals involved with shipping or selling equipment that produces illicit drugs, which are often laced with fentanyl. This bill would provide more authority to the Treasury Department to impose sanctions.

“The fentanyl crisis is devastating families in every corner of Virginia, and it’s going to require all of us working together to find a comprehensive strategy to prevent these tragedies,” said Kaine. “By imposing sanctions on transnational criminal organizations and others who traffic fentanyl into the U.S., this bill is one way to combat the current epidemic and help prevent the flow of fentanyl into our communities.”

Fentanyl is a leading cause of death for Americans ages 18 to 49. In 2021, nearly 107,000 Americans died from a drug overdose or drug poisoning, and 65% of these deaths were caused by fentanyl. Last year, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) seized over 379 million deadly doses of fentanyl – more than double the amount of fentanyl-laced, fake prescription pills that it seized in 2021. Deaths related to fentanyl have also risen dramatically in Virginia. In 2012, there were 50 reported deaths due to fentanyl. In 2022, fentanyl took the lives of nearly 2,000 Virginians.

The FEND Off Fentanyl Act would enhance current law, so U.S. government agencies can more effectively disrupt opioid supply chains and penalize those facilitating the trafficking of fentanyl. The bill also ensures that sanctions are imposed not only on the illicit drug trade, but also on the money laundering that makes it profitable. Specifically, the legislation would:

  • Declare that the international trafficking of fentanyl is a national emergency.
  • Require the President to sanction transnational criminal organizations and drug cartels’ key members engaged in international fentanyl trafficking.
  • Enable the President to use proceeds of forfeited, sanctioned property of fentanyl traffickers to further law enforcement efforts.
  • Enhance the ability to enforce sanctions violations, thereby making it more likely that people who defy U.S. law will be caught and prosecuted.
  • Require the administration to report to Congress on actions the U.S. government is taking to reduce the international trafficking of fentanyl and related opioids.
  • Allow the Treasury Department to utilize special measures to combat fentanyl-related money laundering.
  • Require the Treasury Department to prioritize fentanyl-related suspicious transactions and include descriptions of drug cartels’ financing actions in Suspicious Activity Reports.

Kaine recently introduced a bipartisan bill with Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) that would help address the fentanyl crisis by directing more federal attention through the Department of Defense (DOD) to counter fentanyl trafficking. In May, he joined a bipartisan letter with his colleagues to call on the DEA to remove barriers to buprenorphine, a lifesaving drug used to treat opioid use disorder. Kaine is also focused on expanding access to mental health and substance use treatment.

Full text of the bill is available here.