March 22, 2018

VIDEO: Cassidy, Kennedy Introduce Bill to Fight Opioid Epidemic, Institute Harsher Prison Sentences for Fentanyl Traffickers, Dealers

WASHINGTON— U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), John Kennedy (R-LA), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and U.S. Representative Tom Reed (R-NY) held a press conference today, announcing their legislation to fight the opioid epidemic by ensuring penalties for fentanyl distribution and trafficking match the severity of the crime. U.S. Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and Ben Sasse (R-NE) also cosponsored the legislation.

Cassidy cosponsored this legislation as part of his “Safer Families, Healthier Communities” initiative addressing crime and the opioid epidemic in Louisiana and across the country.

“Drug traffickers take lives and get away with a slap on the wrist,” said Dr. Cassidy. “This bill ensures those who traffic and deal fentanyl pay a higher price.”

“Fentanyl is an incredibly powerful drug. If you are trafficking this deadly drug, you ought to be punished to the full extent of the law. You aren’t going to motivate dealers and traffickers by pleading to their conscience. They know how deadly it is, and they just don’t care. Too many men and women have died as a result of fentanyl; it needs to stop,” said Sen. Kennedy. “I am proud to be a part of this important effort.”

Today, a trafficker with 2 grams of fentanyl will be treated like a trafficker with 5 grams of heroin, despite the fentanyl being 50 times deadlier than heroin. Current mandatory minimums only apply after a trafficker possesses 40 grams of a substance including fentanyl, which could be enough to kill up to 20,000 people.

This bill will reduce the amount of fentanyl required for mandatory sentencing minimums to apply in distribution cases.

  • 20 grams = 10+ years (changes current amount of 400 grams) 
  • 5 grams = 10+ years (changes current amount of 100 grams)
  • 2 grams = 5+ years (changes current amount of 40 grams)
  • .5 grams = 5+ years (changes current amount of 10 grams) 

It will also provide resources to the Post Office to stop shipments of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids arriving from overseas.

Download high-quality video of Cassidy’s statement here.

A transcript of Cassidy’s remarks from today’s press conference is below:

CASSIDY: Hey, thank y’all. Thank y’all for introducing the bill.

It’s my temptation to approach this as a doctor. Look at this ratio: a little bit of fentanyl, that much heroin. And also understand that patients, as someone mentioned, when they’re looking for a fix, they don’t stop to ask what’s in it. But I’m not going to approach it as a physician, I’m going to approach it as a parent.

There’s folks back home whose son, 17 years old, was in treatment recidivism—in treatment going back on drugs—but progressing to where he would finally become free. And that’s the way this works. You try and break out of the lifestyle, it pulls you back in but finally you break out.

He was in the cycle, and they were very hopeful—very hopeful. He comes out of treatment, his friends grab him, they give him drugs, this time laced with fentanyl, and their 17-year-old is dead.

Now, there’s many things we need to do to prevent that tragedy, but as a tragedy which is increasingly playing out across our country. This is one of the things that we can do. It’s not the end of it. It’s not the only thing. But it is, it is a significant thing that whoever supplied the fentanyl to this young man would understand that there was going to be a higher price to pay, that whoever he or she was would perhaps have a second thought before they tempt him out of treatment.

Let’s face it, they’re losing a market. They want to keep him hooked. And, if they keep him hooked and he dies, then their life is over too. Maybe not literally, but prison term—a longer prison term—is part of that.

And so if we approach this not as members of the House or the Senate, not as physicians, not as prosecutors, you name it, but as parents, I think we should favor this for the hope that there will be another 17-year-old or 16-year-old or 15-year-old whose life would be saved because of it.