Biden Administration Sanctions Chinese, Mexican Entities Involved in Fentanyl Production

Biden Administration Sanctions Chinese, Mexican Entities Involved in Fentanyl Production
Bags full of fentanyl pills seized by DEA Los Angeles. (Courtesy of DEA Los Angeles)
Ross Muscato
The Biden administration imposed sanctions May 30 on 17 people and organizations it says are distributing equipment used in the production of illicit pills that frequently include fentanyl, a synthetic opioid painkiller that is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.
Deadly overdoses caused by synthetic opioids have increased dramatically over the past few years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in 2020, more than 56,000 people in the United States died from overdoses of synthetic opioids (other than methadone), an increase of 56 percent from the previous year. 

Disrupting the China-Mexico Pipeline

Spearheaded by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the action also involves the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U.S. Customs and Border Protections Agency (CBP).  
The move by the administration targeted organizations and people in China and Mexico. Most of the illegal fentanyl in America is made in Mexico from substances and precursors that come from China. 
The administration placed the sanctions on seven organizations and six people in China, and one organization and three people in Mexico, engaged in selling pill presses, die molds, and other equipment used to make pills laced with fentanyl that include counterfeit trademark stamps. 
“Treasury’s sanctions target every stage of the deadly supply chain fueling the surge in fentanyl poisonings and deaths across the country,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson.
“Counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl constitute a leading cause of these deaths, devastating thousands of American families each year. We remain committed to using all authorities against enablers of illicit drug production to disrupt this deadly global production and counter the threat posed by these drugs.”
CDC reported earlier in May that from 2016 through 2021 overdose deaths involving fentanyl increased from 5.7 per 100,000 to 21.6 per 100,000, a rise of 279 percent.  
More than 150 people die daily from synthetic opioid (the classification that includes fentanyl) overdoses, according to the CDC. 
An illustration of two milligrams of fentanyl powder, a lethal dose, next to a one-penny coin. (DEA)
An illustration of two milligrams of fentanyl powder, a lethal dose, next to a one-penny coin. (DEA)

Domestically Dealing With the Fentanyl Crisis

The sanctions follow the House passing a bill, 289-133, on May 25 that was backed by the White House and which the GOP led in approving, that would classify all fentanyl as Schedule I substances, those that are the most dangerous and deadly.  
Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) and Bob Latta (R-Ohio) introduced the legislation, titled HALT Fentanyl Act.
Seventy-four Democrats joined 215 Democrats in supporting the bill. Those opposing the legislation, almost all Democrats, contend that if the bill became law it could lead to people being locked up unfairly, and also hinder research in areas in which fentanyl has legal uses, among them treating intense pain in cancer patients. 
Illegal fentanyl is sold under several street names including Apace, China Town, Goodfellas, He-Man, Jackpot, King Ivory, Murder 8, and Poison. Fentanyl is also mixed with recreational drugs, and many times people purchase a drug without knowing it contains fentanyl.  
A few specs of fentanyl that would fit on the tip of a pencil can be a lethal dose.  
Fentanyl was first synthesized in 1959. It began to be used for medical purposes in 1968. Fentanyl is legally made and distributed in the United States.