WASHINGTON (WAVY) – Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) is bringing new meaning to the term “war on drugs.” He’s co-sponsoring a bill that would get the armed forces more involved in stopping an extremely deadly drug right in its tracks.
Kaine and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), along with Reps. Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.) and Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.) are sponsoring the bipartisan Disrupt Fentanyl Trafficking Act.
The object is to give the military more to work with to find and intercept the deadly opioid at the Mexican border. Fentanyl is killing nearly 200 Americans every day, in other words, the equivalent of a 9-11 every two weeks.
“The deaths from fentanyl in the United States are essentially like a war every year and the increase in fentanyl-related deaths is really staggering,” Kaine said in a Thursday call with reporters.
His office reports Virginia had about 2,000 deaths last year from fentanyl – a synthetic opioid that’s up to 50 times stronger than heroin.
A DEA special agent in charge for our region told us for our March opioid special that Mexican drug cartels are so good at hiding fentanyl in other substances, sometimes even the DEA can’t tell the difference.
“Fentanyl, when it crosses the border into the United States, doesn’t come in in somebody’s backpack,” Kaine said. “It tends to come in trucks that are crossing through legal ports of entry, and right now we don’t have sufficient technology to inspect all the trucks.”
Kaine says it could be as few as only one in every ten trucks that gets checked.
The bill calls for a partnership between the U.S. and Mexican militaries. Kaine said currently the Department of Defense can do drug surveillance at the Southern border, but it doesn’t have the resources to interdict, so he wants more money for the military to take action.
“We do now have technologies that can inspect every truck coming over the border without backing up commerce, but we need to invest in those technologies,” he said.
Last year alone, the DEA seized over 113,000 fake pills and 122 pounds of fentanyl powder in Virginia – enough to kill half the population of the Commonwealth.
The first step for the Disrupt Fentanyl Trafficking Act would be developing a strategy for the military partnership and identifying the resources necessary, and financial requirements would be determined at a later stage.