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Reforming America’s Streets: A New Proposal For The Fight Against Fentanyl

Updated: Mar 31

Chris Rahimian-Smith

A Mexican Federal Police guard standing next to seized marijuana in Oct. 2010,

Fentanyl overdoses have ravaged the US, causing an unprecedented 70,000 deaths in 2022. 200 deaths a day and a quarter of a million people have died since 2018.

The failure of border security and corruption has made fentanyl permeable to major US cities and localities. Another addition to the War On Drugs that leaves several Americans vulnerable is the issue of internal corruption in state security.

On the 10th of October 2023, Senators Chuck Schumer, Bill Cassidy, and Maggie Hassan made a trip to Beijing to discuss fentanyl-related overdoses stemming from Chinese businesses. Eight Chinese businesses and twelve executives were criminally charged with selling precursor drugs for fentanyl to Mexican Drug Cartels to distribute in the US illegally.

The Chinese regarded deep sympathy for the American deaths but were unwilling to legally investigate and intervene, citing that this was a failed US policy.

The US will fail to contain the Chinese because of the size and dependability of their economy, thus the US will have to focus on internal law enforcement and on border security regarding Mexico.

Drug trafficking through the southern border is nothing new. The US’s dependability on drugs like heroin, cocaine, and marijuana has enabled small Mexican criminal gangs to emerge as large criminal networks, like the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.

US policy dilemmas stem from a double standard. Border corruption is prominent and Mexican law enforcement is tolerant of illegal cartel operations. Part of this stems from cartels influencing state and national elections to prevent new political leaders from denying kickbacks and leaving a hand out of cartel operations. The US Department of Homeland Security and Drug Enforcement Administration also have limited jurisdiction on how it can go after cartels in Mexico, calling sovereignty infringement.

US military engagement with Mexican Drug Cartels would not end the drug trade and production inside Mexico. In fact, it would most likely leave a power vacuum for another criminal organization to take over. The US has to manage the internal trade of fentanyl in US cities by cracking down on drug handoffs, illicit websites marketing drugs, and maximizing sentencing charges for first and multiple-time fentanyl sellers.

So far, the Biden administration has implemented new border policies that help to detect and acquire illegal drugs through non-intrusive means. Although these policies are promising, there still needs to be a conversation about internal drug dealing that is further facilitating the violent opioid endemic.

Federal, state, and local governments should work together to provide funding for local crackdowns. These programs should seek to address the following:

  • Expanding first-time offense possession and selling laws for fentanyl and opioids for the time in prison, given federal or state jurisdiction.

  • Infiltrating and eliminating American branches of international crime organizations such as the Albanian, Russian, Italian, and Hispanic-based organized crime groups.

  • Invest in local and state units of cyber specialists to infiltrate black market websites associated with Fentanyl trading.

  • Creation of a specialized drug enforcement unit in local and state police units

The Fentanyl crisis is not operating in a single network and platform, but rather in an intricate web. Corruption is the main issue surrounding the trade of fentanyl on all societal levels. There needs to be a greater initiative at all levels of law enforcement to tackle this issue. These operations should not only be on fentanyl but all illegal opioids and illicit substances that can cause extraordinary bodily harm to users. Efforts to contain Chinese chemical trading are not sufficient; however, remain quite necessary. Further prevention methods must be stressed internally in the United States to limit exposure to this lethal substance.

An illustration depicting the flow of Fentanyl between China, The United States, and Mexico, via The Wire China


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Logan, Justin, and Daniel Raisbeck. “The U.S. Military Can’t Solve the Fentanyl Crisis.” Foreign Policy, 8 Sept. 2023,

Marrs, Tim. Fentanyl’s New Flow. 5 June 2022. The Wire China, Accessed 16 Oct. 2023.

Mexico’s long running drug war. 20 Mar. 2022. CNN, Accessed 12 Oct. 2023.

Miroff, Nick. “U.S. Charges Chinese Companies, Executives with Fentanyl Crimes.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 3 Oct. 2023,

Press, Associated. “U.S. Senators See a Glimmer of Hope for Opening Talks with China over the Fentanyl Crisis.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 10 Oct. 2023,,fentanyl%20to%20Mexican%20drug%20cartels.

Vanda Felbab-Brown, James M. Lindsay, et al. “Addressing Mexico’s Role in the US Fentanyl Epidemic.” Brookings, 20 July 2023,

“White House Calls on Congress for Immediate Action to Continue the Administration’s Work to Disrupt Fentanyl Trafficking.” The White House, The United States Government, 1 Nov. 2023,

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