FIRST ON FOX: A bipartisan coalition of 18 state attorneys general are calling on President Biden to take “immediate and decisive action” to declare fentanyl a weapon of mass destruction — arguing that doing so could protect Americans from a “mass casualty event.”
In a letter to Biden, the 18 attorneys general — led by Florida AG Ashley Moody — note that fentanyl is “exacerbating the death toll increasing exponentially every year for the last several years.”
“The purpose of this letter is to propose an unorthodox solution that may help abate or at least slow the crisis’s trajectory while also protecting Americans from a mass casualty event from fentanyl,” they say.”We ask that you consider classifying illegal fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction or, if you conclude you do not have authority to do so, urge Congress to pass legislation to do so.”
The U.S. is dealing with an increase in deaths attributable to illicit fentanyl, which is primarily made in Mexico with Chinese precursors and then smuggled in across the southern land border. The synthetic opioid is 50-100 times more potent than morphine and is frequently cut with other drugs, meaning that users may often be unaware that they are ingesting the potent substance.
Of the more than 108,000 overdose deaths last year, more than 80,000 were linked with fentanyl, officials say. The Drug Enforcement Administration has previously warned that the drug is killing Americans at an “unprecedented rate. The letter cites statistics that show that fentanyl deaths increased 59% in Florida in 2020 and 18.3% in Connecticut.
Moody, who has been sounding the alarm about the effects of the opioid crisis on Florida, called for Biden to declare the synthetic drug a WMD in July. A weapon of mass destruction is defined by the U.S. government as a “nuclear, radiological, chemical, biological, or other device that is intended to harm a large number of people.”
This letter, obtained by Fox News Digital, shows how the support for such a move has grown.
Attorneys General from Connecticut, Arkansas, New Mexico, Guam, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia all signed onto the letter.
A weapon of mass destruction is defined by the U.S. government as a “nuclear, radiological, chemical, biological, or other device that is intended to harm a large number of people.”
The state officials argue that the fentanyl crisis meets that definition.
“Enough fentanyl has been seized in the last year to kill every man, woman, and child in the United States several times over. Indeed, given fentanyl’s lethality, the amounts being interdicted and seized are inconsistent with what one would expect from drug trafficking activity and are indicative of either purposeful conspiracy to murder Americans or an effort to stockpile a dangerous chemical weapon,” they say.
They argue that the low production cost, lethality and availability of the chemical means it would be an “ideal choice” for bad actors to use as a chemical weapon — and note that it has already been used as such by the Russian army to end the 2002 Moscow theater hostage crisis, killing more than 120 hostages in the process.
“The threat of a state enemy using this drug to do harm to the American people cannot be understated,” they argue.
The attorneys general argue that designating fentanyl would require the Department of Homeland Security and the DEA to coordinate with agencies including the Pentagon on the crisis, which could in turn lead to policies to detect or prevent the transport of fentanyl.
While they acknowledge that no state (or non-state) actor except for Russia have weaponized fentanyl, “waiting for some state or non-state actor to utilize it as weapon before it is classified as such seems to be the same type of reasoning that kept the government from investigating foreign nationals learning to fly, but not land planes in the lead up to September 11th.”
“We must not sit idly by until a terrorist chooses to inflict harm using this substance on a large group of Americans—our countrymen are already dying from this poison,” they argue. “We cannot wait for tragedy to strike when proactive steps can be taken now to preserve American lives. We urge you take immediate and decisive action and declare fentanyl a weapon of mass destruction.
The White House has been highlighting its own efforts to reduce fentanyl deaths in the U.S., and has said that the 200% increase in seizures at the southern border in July is a sign that its anti-smuggling efforts are working. The White House didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
Officials have said that the administration is focused on both stopping smugglers as well as help for those affected by the crisis. The White House has highlighted a successful effort to get the U.N. to ban opioid precursors, two executive orders signed by Biden to counter transnational criminal organizations and increased cooperation with Western Hemisphere countries to crack down on drug trafficking.
“This is something that the President cares about. This is something that the President has laid out a plan to make sure that our kids; our babies; young Americans here in this country are not continuing to suffer from that, are not continuing to be given — or access to drugs,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said last month. “This is something that’s incredibly important to this President.”