NEW JERSEY – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) Tuesday joined with the New Jersey State Police, the New Jersey Police Benevolent Association, the Partnership for a Drug Free NJ, and families impacted by the opioid epidemic and fentanyl crisis to highlight legislation he co-sponsored, the FEND Off Fentanyl Act, that passed the Senate last week as part the bipartisan Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
“This is an issue that goes beyond politics — beyond party labels like Democrats and Republicans. No matter who we are or where we live, we are all Americans first. And given the threat that fentanyl poses to our country – particularly the young people in our country – we must immediately focus our efforts and marshal all of our energy to stop the flow of fentanyl,” Menendez said. “That’s why I was proud to support this legislation that empowers the federal government to fully prosecute the manufacturers, suppliers, and smugglers of this poison so we can better ensure that America’s communities are protected from harm.”
The FEND Off Fentanyl Act is a sanctions and anti-money laundering bill to help combat the country’s fentanyl crisis by targeting opioid traffickers devastating America’s communities. The bill will enhance current law so U.S. government agencies can more effectively disrupt illicit 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.
“Since 2018, New Jersey has lost almost eight people every day to overdose death, most of which are fentanyl-related. Fentanyl is detected in 98% of suspected opioids seized by New Jersey police. We welcome the Fend Off Fentanyl Act to stem the tide of fentanyl and other dangerous drugs into New Jersey and our country, to help us protect and serve our communities,” said Jason Piotrowski, Captain of NJ State Police.
“Fentanyl deaths in this country have reached epidemic proportions. In 2021 alone, of the more than 107,000 overdose deaths in the United States, over 70,000 were attributed to Fentanyl. To put that in perspective, that is filling the Prudential Center more than four times over. These numbers are staggering. From January 1st to May 1st of this year, in New Jersey alone, there were 1,144 Suspected Drug Related Deaths. During that time, our officers and EMS personnel administered Narcan (Naloxone) 6,176 times. That is over 40 times a day! Administering Narcan has become as routine to our officers as car accidents and burglar alarms. It is simply unacceptable,” said Patrick Colligan, State President of the New Jersey Policemen’s Benevolent Association. “Those numbers are expected to rise as the latest data is compiled. Fentanyl would not be the killer it is without the illicit supply chains funded by the drug cartels through their money laundering operations. If this is not a national emergency, I am not sure what is. We need the FEND Off Fentanyl Act to hit these cartels in the only place that will hurt them, in their wallets.”
“New Jersey is losing too many of our children to the opioid and fentanyl crisis. In order to reverse this epidemic, we need to continue to focus on education and prevention efforts, along with treatment options and collaboration with our prescribers and law enforcement who have the tools to support each of these efforts,” said Angelo Valente, Executive Director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey. “New Jersey has and continues to be a leader in the collaboration between law enforcement and prevention – on the federal, state, county, and local levels. The FEND Off Fentanyl Act is crucial to supporting these efforts.”
“There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of my son as I continue to help others in his memory. This bill will bring us one step closer to keeping our communities safe as fentanyl leaves too many families devastated by its deadly impact,” said Michele Shreffler-Perez, who lost her son, Daniel, to fentanyl in 2019.
“We have reached the critical stage in which it’s not an “if” Fentanyl will claim the life of someone you love, it’s “WHEN,” said Patrice Lenowitz, who lost her 25-year-old son, Max, last year to fentanyl. “Today’s Fentanyl criminal masterminds from China and Mexico have added this chemical to counterfeit prescription pills like Adderall, Xanax, Oxycodone, illicit street drugs like cocaine, and even marijuana. Senator Menendez’ leadership through the Fend Off Fentanyl Act is an important step as a deterrent. I couldn’t save my child. But it’s not too late to save yours.”
In New Jersey, fentanyl was involved in nearly 75 percent of drug overdoses in 2019 – a drastic increase from seven years prior when it accounted for four percent, according to the NJ Office of the Attorney General. In 2021, nearly 107,000 Americans died from an overdose, and 65% of overdose deaths were caused by fentanyl. Last year, the Drug Enforcement Administration seized over 379 million deadly doses of fentanyl – enough to supply a lethal dose to every American.
Just last month, in Paterson, New Jersey State Police seized approximately three and a half pounds of suspected fentanyl powder and over 1,000 suspected fentanyl pills, with a combined street value of nearly $1 million. As part of the arrest, 800,000 fentanyl doses were taken off of the streets.
Specifically, to disrupt the flow of illicit opioids into the United States, the FEND Off Fentanyl Act 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 drug trafficking.
- Enable the President to use proceeds of forfeited, sanctioned property of fentanyl traffickers to further support 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
Multiple national organizations have expressed support for the bill, including Mothers Against Prescription Drug Abuse (MAPDA), the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence, the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Sheriffs’ Association, and FDD Action.
In June, the Senator introduced the Strengthening Fentanyl Sanctions Act, critical legislation to ensure that the Biden administration has the resources and authorities needed to target malign actors fueling the ongoing fentanyl epidemic in our country. Earlier this year, he held a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on illicit fentanyl trafficking, and how the United States can use every foreign policy tool available to stop the flow of fentanyl into the country.
In 2022, Sen. Menendez joined a bipartisan group of Senate colleagues to introduce a resolution urging Congress to combat international criminal organizations, illicit trade, and the use of trade-based money laundering (TBML), which pose a significant threat to U.S. national security. In 2019, the Senator led the Senate passage of the bipartisan Fentanyl Sanctions Act to hold China and other countries accountable to their commitments to crack down on producers and traffickers of fentanyl and other deadly synthetic opioids.