A piece of legislation looking to curb synthetic opioids from entering the country is now backed by U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan.
The International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology, or INTERDICT, Act was introduced in the House of Representatives in April by Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass.
The bill would give U.S. Customs and Border Protection $15 million to ensure more manpower and screening devices would be available to test for drugs like fentanyl, which is 50 times more potent than heroin.
Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, announced Monday he has co-sponsored the bill, along with representatives from Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia.
“Fentanyl is a real and alarming threat to the Suncoast,” Buchanan said in a press release. “American border patrol agents are on the front lines and need the resources to block these deadly drugs from entering our country.”
In 2015, Manatee County had the highest overdose deaths per captia compared to any other Florida county for deaths related to cocaine, morphine and fentanyl, according to the Medical Examiners Commission Drug Report. Manatee tied with Palm Beach County for the highest deaths per capita related to heroin.
Buchanan referenced a New York Times report in which details how the deadly substance is getting to the U.S. from countries like China or Mexico: the “dark web,” where people illegally order drugs online. One South Carolina man was arrested for receiving by mail enough fentanyl to kill 1.5 million adults, the report said. Two grams of fentanyl is a lethal dose, the New York Times reported.
The congressman also co-sponsored the STOP Act, which aims to require more intensive screening by the U.S. Postal Service.