Spanberger, Crenshaw, Dean, Hunt Lead Effort to Target Online Sales of Illicit Drugs Laced with Fentanyl

U.S. Senate Version is Led by U.S. Senators Cory Booker & Ted Cruz

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07), Dan Crenshaw (R-TX-02), Madeleine Dean (D-PA-04), and Wesley Hunt (R-TX-38) today are introducing bipartisan, bicameral legislation to help address the online sale of counterfeit pills and illicit drugs laced with fentanyl.

In 2022, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) seized more than 58 million fake pills containing fentanyl and 13,000 pounds of fentanyl powder — nearly 400 million deadly doses of fentanyl. The DEA has also reported that illicit drugs are increasingly being sold and distributed on social media platforms — with experts detecting approximately 10,000 new drug-related accounts each month. During just a two-month period in 2021, the DEA identified 76 cases where traffickers advertised drugs on social media. Additionally, 95 percent of websites selling prescription drugs are doing so illegally, according to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP).

The bipartisan Targeting Online Sales of Fentanyl Act would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the methods used to enable the online sale of fentanyl and assess efforts by federal law enforcement and online providers to combat the practice. The bill is companion legislation to a U.S. Senate bill led by U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ted Cruz (R-TX).

“As a former federal law enforcement officer and CIA case officer who worked narcotics trafficking cases, I’ve long been aware of the evolving tactics used to move illicit drugs. Traffickers and dealers are finding new distribution channels for fentanyl-laced drugs online — while Virginians and Americans across the country are paying the price,” said Spanberger. “Congress and our federal government must do more to combat these deadly operations. Our bipartisan legislation would help determine how to disrupt these channels and analyze the best methods for law enforcement officers to crack down on online fentanyl sales.”

“This bill fits right in with one of the main objectives of the Task Force to Combat Mexican Drug Cartels, which I am the chairman, to assess which government agencies are overseeing what policies and actions as it pertains to online sales of Fentanyl,” said Crenshaw. “We can’t offer solutions to combat easy online access without knowing exactly what our agencies are already doing.”

“Every community suffers from the devastating toll of fentanyl — it is crucial that we commit ourselves to a bipartisan, bicameral effort to stop the spread of it,” said Dean. “And in our efforts, we must stay informed with how fentanyl is reaching people so we can respond with the most effective tools. Our bill will specifically target the online sales of counterfeit pills and illicit drugs laced with fentanyl, which has become increasingly more common. I’m grateful for my colleagues working together to find new ways to help save lives.”

The Targeting Online Sales of Fentanyl Act would require the GAO to provide a report within one year, including:

  • Business models and techniques employed by online fentanyl traffickers;
  • Utilization of social media platforms in facilitating fentanyl transactions involving youth;
  • Scope and effectiveness of federal initiatives aimed at countering online fentanyl sales, including intergovernmental and interagency collaborations;
  • Enforcement mechanisms and processes employed by online providers to detect and report transactions; and
  • An analysis of the outcomes of referrals to law enforcement agencies regarding online fentanyl sales, along with areas requiring improvement.

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