Senate

Biden official urges caution on classifying fentanyl as weapon of mass destruction

A Department of Homeland Security official urged caution on Tuesday when asked about a GOP proposal to classify fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction. 

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) introduced a bill last month that would classify the synthetic opioid a weapon of mass destruction (WMD). She said she hoped it would allow relevant federal agencies to better coordinate their efforts to “eliminate the threat posed by this deadly substance.” 

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) asked Gary Rasicot, acting assistant secretary for the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office, about the proposal at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing on Tuesday. 

“Any declaration of fentanyl as a WMD, I think you have to carefully consider that because there are legitimate medical uses for fentanyl,” Rasicot said at the hearing. 

“In regards to illicit fentanyl, I think you have to proceed with caution there as well because I think what you want to avoid is creating overlapping jurisdictions or even diverting limited WMD resources into a counternarcotics arena,” he added.

Fentanyl can be up to 50 times stronger than heroin and up to 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is often mixed with other drugs such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine and made into pills that resemble other prescription opioids. 

More than 150 people die every day from overdoses resulting from opioids such as fentanyl, according to the CDC.

China has long been the primary source of fentanyl in the U.S. Under international pressure, Beijing banned the production and sale of fentanyl in 2019, reducing the illicit flow of the drug out of the country. 

Hawley pressed Rasicot at the hearing about the risk of terrorists misusing fentanyl.

“Back to this possibility of terrorists of foreign nations weaponizing fentanyl, can you give me your assessment of, is that likely? What are the concerns around that?” Hawley asked.

“I would be happy to give you that assessment, but I think it would be more appropriately done in a different forum, and I’d like to follow up with you on that,” Rasicot responded.

Tags Department of Homeland Security fentanyl Joe Biden Josh Hawley Josh Hawley Lauren Boebert Lauren Boebert

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