April 21, 2023

Senator Ricketts’ Weekly Column: Addressing Our Drug Crisis

April 21, 2023

America currently faces the worst drug crisis in our nation’s history. In 2021, 106,000 Americans died of a drug overdose – nearly 70,000 because of fentanyl. Fentanyl is now the leading cause of death among Americans aged 18-45. The precursors to fentanyl are produced in China. From there, they are shipped to Mexico where cartels manufacture them into fentanyl and smuggle it across our border. This crisis has taken lives in every state, including Nebraska.

The Mexican drug cartels have taken advantage of President Biden’s weak enforcement at the border to surge the flow of fentanyl into our country. The last two years I was Governor, the Nebraska State Patrol confiscated three times the amount of fentanyl they did previously. In 2019, Nebraska law enforcement seized only 46 fentanyl pills. Three years later, that number surged to more than 151,000 pills in just the first six months of 2022.

Nationally, the numbers get far worse. This January alone, federal law enforcement seized over 1,400 pounds of fentanyl. That’s over 300 million fatal doses – enough fentanyl to kill nearly every man, woman, and child in this entire country.

Taryn Lee Griffith was a 24-year old single mom of two when she died of an overdose in Lincoln. She took what she believed was a prescription pill while out with friends. She had no idea that pill had been laced with a lethal dose of fentanyl. Now, her two daughters will have to learn about their mom from pictures and family stories. Her tragedy is all too familiar.

This situation is heartbreaking. As I’ve told my colleagues in the U.S. Senate, if addressing this isn’t our job, I don’t know what is. I’m committed to working on real solutions.

The first and most important solution to our drug overdose crisis is to secure our borders. The federal government must fulfill its responsibility and make it more difficult for these drugs to come into our country and reach our communities. Customs and Border Patrol needs infrastructure like the border wall. They need more technology and more personnel at the border. We need to give our Customs and Border Patrol agents the resources they need.

Another common-sense solution is to increase the criminal penalties for those who distribute fentanyl. I am proud to co-sponsor Senator Marco Rubio’s Felony Murder for Deadly Fentanyl Distribution Act. It makes those who distribute fentanyl and kill Americans liable for federal felony murder charges.

If a criminal distributes fentanyl and it kills someone, the distributor should be charged with federal felony murder. The families who’ve lost loved ones to drug overdose want these criminals to be held accountable. Those who kill Americans with fentanyl deserve this severe penalty.

A third step we should take is to permanently classify fentanyl-related substances as Schedule 1 drugs under the Controlled Substances Act. The temporary designation we currently have was a step in the right direction, but we need a permanent solution. Senator Ron Johnson’s Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues Act would eliminate the need for extensions once and for all. I’m proud to co-sponsor this important piece of legislation.

Nebraskans expect a federal government that protects its citizens. These are just a few steps we can take to ensure we are fulfilling our obligation to do that. We need to take action to save American lives. Only together will we bring this crisis under control. 

Along with Senator Deb Fischer and the rest of my colleagues in the Nebraska delegation, my team and I are here to serve you. Contact my team and I anytime by phone at 202-224-4224, on my website www.ricketts.senate.gov, or via email contactricke@ricketts.senate.gov. I am honored to serve our great state and will continue to work to protect the Good Life from Washington overreach.