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Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Fentanyl: The New Litmus Test for Republican Candidates

The U.S. needs political leaders who will get serious about an unparalleled scourge. 

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(Chess Ocampo/Shutterstock)

Monday, April 15, was the two-year anniversary of the worst day of our life—the day my wife Kathy and I lost our son Joey to fentanyl poisoning. Joey had his struggles, but never did we imagine his life would be taken by a poison infiltrating our southern border from our enemies.

Our family isn’t alone. There has been a 1,000-percent increase in fentanyl deaths among young people from 2020–2023.  Over 100,000 American sons and daughters are dying every year due to fentanyl. More than 300 Americans are dying every day from fentanyl poisonings. If a jetliner was going down every day, we would stop everything and get it fixed.

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As our border remains flooded with deadly drugs that are destroying our families and killing our children, it’s no surprise that immigration and border security are the top issues for voters. Yet our own president and so many in Congress sit as bystanders from their perches in Washington as deaths surge. 

That’s why I’m proposing a pledge to our homeland—a litmus test, if you will—for Americans to demand of any candidate or politician who asks them for their vote:

1.     Secure the border

2.     Call for the classification of fentanyl as a Weapon of Mass Destruction

3.     Hold domestic and international dealers accountable for deaths and enact stricter penalties

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These are simple promises, the bare minimum to protect our children, our national security, and our sovereignty as a nation. 

Secure the border: Since President Biden has been in office, more people have crossed the border illegally than the entire population of my home state of Indiana. And those are just the ones we’ve documented.

We don’t have to imagine hundreds of thousands of deaths from the deadliest drugs, surging crime at the hands of illegal immigrants, or human traffickers invading our border—it’s already happening on our own soil. 

We don’t need new laws to secure the border. We need leaders in Washington with a spine to enforce the existing laws on the books. We need to build the wall and implement cutting-edge technology to keep out the criminals, cartels, and bad actors who are using Washington’s incompetence for their own sick gain. 

Call for the classification of fentanyl as a Weapon of Mass Destruction: Illegal fentanyl acts as a weapon of mass destruction in America. We need to treat it as such to end this crisis. Just two milligrams of fentanyl are needed to kill an adult. It can easily be placed in other substances, and already is: according to reports, at least one third of illicitly manufactured pills contain fentanyl. Government analyses have identified fentanyl as a probable medium for chemical attacks against the United States.

I am calling on Congress and the Biden Administration to declare illegal fentanyl a Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMDs), which will help equip law enforcement with more tools from the Department of Homeland Security—detection technology, analytics, field training and support—to protect Hoosiers and all Americans from this highly lethal substance. 

Hold domestic and international dealers accountable for deaths and enact stricter penalties: Americans are the victims of a one-sided opium war with China, and our leaders sit by and do nothing. We must hold both domestic and international dealers accountable for fentanyl-poisoning deaths and implement stricter penalties—whether criminal penalties or sanctions on foreign nationals—to deter the production and distribution in the first place.

According to the DEA, China is the primary manufacturer of fentanyl and the ingredients used to make fentanyl. These lethal substances are then trafficked to Mexican cartels that smuggle most of the fentanyl that reaches the U.S. across our southern border. The threat of an enemy, either foreign or domestic, using fentanyl to harm Americans cannot be understated, especially as geopolitical tensions across the globe and especially with China heat up. 

Securing the border, calling for the classification of fentanyl as WMD, and working for stronger penalties for domestic and international fentanyl dealers make up just the tip of the spear. Our family is very proud of Joey and the difference he made in his life here, and his legacy will continue. No family should have to experience what we have. I will fight tooth and nail to end this mass poisoning of our country’s sons and daughters. And anyone asking to represent or lead you should commit to do the same.