Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi is trying to prevent the trafficking of opioids in the Mohawk Valley.
Brindisi, who is running against Republican Congresswoman Claudia Tenney in the 22nd Congressional District race, held a news conference Friday outside the post office in New Hartford to explain how one specific drug, fentanyl, is arriving in the U.S.
Brindisi says that in addition to using U.S. airports and waterways, fentanyl is also shipped from China through the U.S. Postal Service. China is believed to be the leading producer of fentanyl in the world, and Brindisi says they’re shipping fentanyl in everyday packages like shoe boxes.
Brindisi says the upcoming G20 Summit in Argentina next month provides a rare window of opportunity to halt the flow of fentanyl into the U.S. and upstate New York. He says he has written a letter to the U.S. Trade Administration to urge the administration to demand that China stop allowing these shipments.
“Everyone has an incentive to see this stopped at the source,” Brindisi said. “We’re involved in a trade dispute right now with China; the administration is negotiating with them. This should be a part of those negotiations, because people home are dying.”
Oneida County Sheriff Rob Maciol said that last year there were 60 overdose deaths in Oneida County, and the majority of those involved the use of fentanyl, either alone or combined with heroin.
“Cutting down on the production and shipment of synthetics into our region will make a difference in the continuing effort to combat drug abuse in our local communities,” Maciol said in a news release.
Tenney’s campaign released a statement Friday in response to Brindisi’s news conference, which read:
"We're glad that Anthony Brindisi is holding a press conference to highlight an issue Claudia has led the fight on since day one. Claudia helped to pass the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act in the House requiring the US Postal Service to provide detailed data on the items included in the packages they ship. The hypocrisy from Anthony Brindisi even talking about drug trafficking is breathtaking considering Anthony Brindisi’s donor, business partner and mentor – Louis Brindisi – was charged with five felonies for running a cocaine by telephone ring out of the Brindisi law office, and took a plea deal to avoid jail time."
You can read Brindisi's full letter here:
Dear Trade Ambassador Lighthizer, Commerce Secretary Mnuchin, and Attorney General Sessions:
I write today to respectfully request as trade negotiations continue with the People’s Republic of China that you do everything in your power to urge China to cease the export of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.
In the Mohawk Valley region of New York State that I represent and across upstate New York, the opioid epidemic is raging, fueled in recent years by synthetic opiods such as fentanyl that originate in China. Currently, the Chinese government is not adequately policing the production and distribution of opioids. Last year in the county where I live, Oneida County, an area with a population of just over 230,000, there were 60 drug overdose deaths in 2017, and 21 were attributed to fentanyl. National statistics are equally as startling. In 2016, about 42,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses—which represented a 28 percent increase over 2015 statistics, largely because of the growth in the use of synthetic opioids.
Many illicit synthetic drugs found by police agencies in the U.S. originate from China. China is currently producing over 90 percent of the world’s fentanyl, and it is exporting raw fentanyl, and fentanyl-based products to our country in large numbers. Many of the opioids exported from China come from legitimate companies that also produce legal chemicals and drugs. The problem is that the Chinese government is not doing enough to stop the flow of illegal drugs out of the country.
Ongoing efforts by the Department of Homeland Security and many law enforcement agencies to identify synthetic drugs shipped to our country are increasing, but it is a difficult task. Small doses of fentanyl are extremely powerful, and can easily be shipped into the U.S. with other products. While this illegal product can sometimes be detected, it often makes its way here through the U.S. Postal Service and other package delivery services.
What is badly needed is cooperation from the Chinese government so that this flow of synthetic opioids to the U.S. can be stemmed. I believe the Chinese government needs to pledge to do everything possible to regulate its drug and chemical industries to stop production and shipment of these drugs. China’s law enforcement agencies need to commit to a partnership with U.S. officials to inspect all mail bound for our country, including providing U.S. officials with information they need to know about shipments and access to drug and chemical companies for inspections.
It is my strong belief that these actions will help fight the scourge of opioid addiction that grips upstate New York and many other areas of the country. If China will not cooperate with these requests, then perhaps economic interests will have to be leveraged to put a stop to China’s trafficking illegal drugs to the U.S. I believe the measures I have outlined will be important steps in deterring synthetic opioid shipments to U.S. drug dealers.
Thank you for your interest in this important matter. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact my office.
Member, New York State Assembly, 119th District
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