One of the most dangerous and deadly drugs pervading our nation currently is fentanyl; it remains the driving force of the deadly opioid epidemic facing Illinois. As more is done to address the root causes, a closer look at our southern border has provided greater insight.
The flow of this powerful drug coming into the United States from Mexico continues to skyrocket, with the Customs and Border Patrol seizing over 19,800 pounds of fentanyl crossing the southern border in FY23, compared to 7,600 pounds in FY22. Fentanyl seizures at ports of entry nationwide quadrupled from 2019-2021, added a report from CBS News. Mexican cartels often use the powerful drug to cheaply and deceptively boost the impact of other, less lethal drugs, such as cocaine or Adderall.
Recently, House Republican Leader Tony McCombie and Deputy Leader John Cabello met with Illinois law
enforcement officials at the US/Mexican border to get a first-hand account of how Fentanyl is making its way to Illinois and to help them develop strategies to combat the crisis.
In addition to that trip, McCombie has been dedicated to passing legislation in the Illinois House that will make a difference. One of her bills includes HB 3203, which allows pharmacists and retail stores to sell potentially life-saving fentanyl test strips over the counter. As fentanyl cannot be smelled or tasted, it is impossible to determine if drugs contain the powerful opioid without the use of test strips. The test strips will be able to identify if fentanyl is present in any drug, which is essential considering a dose of only two milligrams can have fatal consequences. The legislation was passed unanimously by the General Assembly and now awaits Gov. Pritzker’s signature.
“This bill will help save lives,” McCombie stated. “Fentanyl is a drug that is taking far too many lives and as we continue to take steps to address the opioid epidemic affecting Illinois families, our priority with this legislation is to do what we can to save lives.”
Illinois lawmakers haven’t exactly acted with urgency regarding this dangerous and deadly drug, which has frustrated Leader McCombie. In the 102nd General Assembly, House Democrats, over strong House Republican objections, passed HB 3447 which sought to decriminalize smaller possession amounts of all drugs including fentanyl. While the bill passed the House with no Republican votes, it was never called for a vote before the end of the 102nd General Assembly.
Leader McCombie also introduced legislation to strengthen penalties on selling drugs that contain fentanyl and against those who traffic fentanyl. “I am fed up with efforts to lessen penalties on drug dealers profiting off of selling lethal toxins to our loved ones,” added McCombie. “Fentanyl is often mixed in other drugs, vitamins and even in products that look like candy.
The flow of illegal fentanyl across our southern border and into our state must be stopped to seriously address this epidemic and save lives. Every tool must be made available to law enforcement, first responders, and educators to help end this crisis and keep our children safe from fentanyl’s lethal consequences.”
Read more about the Fentanyl crisis here.