Senator Tom Cotton will introduce legislation next week to combat the opioid epidemic in America. The proposal will impose penalties for fentanyl distribution and trafficking that better reflect the severity of the crime. It will also provide resources to the Post Office to stop shipments of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids arriving from overseas.
Fentanyl, a fully synthetic opioid, is 100 times more powerful than morphine. Dumped into the U.S. by China, it has been a driving force behind our opioid epidemic. Sen. Cotton says that more than 20,000 Americans were killed by fentanyl last year.
Cotton’s bill is intended to make sure the punishment for fentanyl distribution and trafficking fits the crime. It reduces the amount of fentanyl required for mandatory sentencing minimums to apply in distribution cases.
Previously, to obtain the stiffest punishment, a dealer needed to have 400 grams of fentanyl. Under the Cotton bill, they only need 20 grams. The weight requirements are reduced proportionately for lower offenses.
In addition, the legislation adds a new mandatory punishment of life in prison or the death penalty, if the dealer has 50 grams or more and someone dies from their fentanyl. The Supreme Court might well strike down imposition of the death penalty for dealing drugs. As presently constituted, it almost certainly would.
Sen. Cotton has a co-sponsor for this bill. He’s none other than Sen. Lindsey Graham.
Graham has supported legislation that would reduce mandatory minimums for certain federal drug crimes and allow the release from prison of some drug dealers who have not completed their sentences. Apparently, Graham wants to increase penalties for dealing fentanyl while reducing them for dealing other deadly drugs.
The opioid crisis, deadly as it is, should not obscure the fact that dealing controlled substances like cocaine and heroin can result in deaths. Those who deal these drugs deserve the mandatory minimum sentences currently in place.