Sens. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) introduced a bill Friday to increase penalties for selling the fully synthetic opioid fentanyl.
The bill will stiffen punishments by reducing "the amount of fentanyl required for mandatory sentencing minimums to apply in distribution cases," according to Cotton's press release. The Arkansas senator said fentanyl’s damage to the U.S. makes the legal change necessary.
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"Fentanyl has had a devastating impact on our country," Cotton said. "More than 20,000 Americans were killed by fentanyl last year, and overall drug deaths have nearly doubled in the past decade. It’s past time the punishment matched the crime when it comes to opioid distribution and trafficking."
Graham said fentanyl is especially dangerous, demanding traffickers face proportionate penalties.
"Fentanyl is one of the most deadly drugs on the market and I look forward to working with Senator Cotton to substantially increase penalties for those who traffic this horrific drug," Graham said.
"Increasing these mandatory minimums is well-justified," he added.
Graham also said he is willing to explore other ways to strengthen penalties, including the possibility of the death penalty for sellers whose product takes lives.
"I’ll also be working with Senator Cotton and others to explore the possibility of even stronger penalties—that could include the death penalty if the fentanyl results in someone’s death—for those who choose to push this deadly drug into our communities," Graham said.
The opioid crisis has been responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in the U.S., and according to a Free Beacon report, it has cost more than $1 trillion.