WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump signed on Wednesday a legislation that will grant $9 million to the Customs and Border Protection to fight trafficking of opiate analgesics, entering the US from Mexico and Canada.
The initiative is specifically aimed at ending the trafficking of fentanyl, a white powder analgesic 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin and usually used to treat cancer, although in recent years criminal groups have used it to increase the potency of heroin.
According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), fentanyl is manufactured in China but enters US territory across the borders with Mexico and Canada, where the drug arrives by postal mail and in very small quantities, making it very difficult to detect.
The drug traffickers “are using our postal system and they’re killing our people,” Trump said while signing the bill in the Oval Office, accompanied by vice president, Mike Pence, and 17 legislators from both parties.
Trump said that the new bill is “a significant step forward” in the fight against fentanyl, a substance which, according to him, is so dangerous that it has killed police sniffing dogs.
“Even dogs die from the scent,” Trump said, adding that “nobody has ever seen anything like this.”
The law that Trump signed Wednesday stipulates that the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) must have portable chemical screening devices at ports of entry and at mail facilities.
Specifically, the legislation grants $9 million to the CBP to purchase hundreds of such devices as well as laboratory equipment.
The bill was passed in the House of Representatives with 412 votes in favor and only 3 against, and it subsequently received the unanimous support from the Senate.
Over the past six years, drug overdose deaths have become the most common cause of violent death in the United States, over and above road traffic accidents or weapons.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016, including illicit drugs and prescription opioids, meaning 175 people die every day, seven death per hour.
Fentanyl is directly linked to more than 700 deaths between the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2015, according to the latest data from the DEA.