Wisconsin at the forefront of stopping illegal importing of opioids

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) – It’s been a year since U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) introduced a bill to fight illegal importation of opioids, but he finally thinks he’s got the support to get it over the finish line this year.

With the help of Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, all 50 state attorneys general have signed on in support of the "Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues" Act (SOFA).

“I have a hard time thinking of where we had all 50 states attorneys general sign onto any, supporting any piece of legislation at the federal level. It's really quite extraordinary,” said Sen. Johnson. “It's really big and I really appreciate our attorney general, Brad Schimel, that led that charge and got them all signed up, which has obviously gotten the attention of senators and members of the House in terms of the importance of this piece of legislation.”

SOFA would help the Drug Enforcement Agency keep up with the highly-addictive drug called fentanyl, which is often altered and shipped to America as "fentanyl analogues."

“All an analogue is, is you take the basic fentanyl molecule and change it slightly. It has the same effect, but it's a different chemical substance and our drug laws can't keep up with that,” said Sen. Johnson.

The bill would give the DEA the authority to make fentanyl variations illegal as soon as they come across them, which would allow for more efficient criminal prosecutions.

Johnson said the bill would not change how fentanyl is prescribed by doctors for extreme pain.

“No, not at all. It's really trying to clamp down on the illegal importation primarily coming from China where you have these labs that are sophisticated enough to create these analogues and can bypass custom and border protection and bring them into the United States legally. They need the ability to stop those things,” said Johnson.

Johnson said the incentives make it hard to stop because “about $800 of precursor ingredients produces $800,000 of street value,” but he's hoping this new bill helps on a national and local level.

“Hopefully if Customs and border protection and the DEA can stop these, it never reaches our streets. That’s the goal,” said Sen. Johnson.

With all the new support, Johnson is hopeful the bill will pass in the next couple of months.

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