Senator Marsha Blackburn Has a Problem With Fentanyl

Tennessee is #3 in the US for prescription drug abuse.

Senator Marsha Blackburn consistently attacks Biden policies, but does nothing to support border agencies, or tackle fentanyl demand in her own state.

Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn spends a great deal of time attacking President Joe Biden and his administration on Twitter. In fact, she posts snarky insults and accusations on an almost hourly basis — sometimes as many as 6 to 8 attacks per day. Her favorite and most frequent attacks target “Biden’s open borders” — although she only frets about one border, the one between the US and Mexico.

For all his tough talk on crime and immigration, in 2018 Trump cut border security budgets to provide funding for his physical “wall”. And he had Marsha Blackburn’s full support. Trump also sucked funds from the military, Coast Guard and airport security in pursuit of his obsession.

Blackburn’s recent tweet-binges in 2022 focus on the flood of fentanyl coming into the US illegally. But as usual, she’s heavy on finger-pointing and light on facts or credible sources. So let’s take a closer look.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It produces feelings of “happiness” but can have severe health effects and is dangerously addictive. When combined with other drugs, it can be lethal. It deadens human emotions, so that users crave more and more of the drug in order to “feel” anything.

As little as 2 milligrams, or 10–15 grains of table salt, can be fatal.

Fentanyl is much cheaper than other illicit drugs like heroin, cocaine, MDMA and methamphetamine, so drug dealers often mix it in to provide more punch, while cutting their costs.

According to the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as little as 2 milligrams, or 10–15 grains of table salt, can be fatal.

Pure fentanyl is so dangerous it can be fatal if inhaled or simply absorbed through the skin, making it a danger to border patrol, DEA agents and dogs.

Illegal fentanyl flows from India and China directly to Mexico, as well as to US and Canadian air and seaports.

Nearly all illegal fentanyl production, packaged as finished pills that resemble painkillers, comes from China. However, India is now entering the market and ships pure fentanyl powder and precursors to both China and Mexico.

The drug is sometimes packaged as candy-colored assorted pills, referred to as rainbow fentanyl, targeted to youth and children. It also comes packaged as fake sidewalk chalk, and even sprinkled like salt on chips.

According to the DEA, although China, Mexico and India have passed laws supposedly controlling these drugs, the countries are making no serious efforts to enforce the laws and stem drug trafficking.

Until recently, most illegal fentanyl was ordered online, and sent to users via mail from China. But larger shipments have also been seized in seaports, private airports, and at the Canadian border.

Now, however, Chinese drug dealers are partnering with Mexican cartels. China sends pure precursor ingredients to the cartels, who then process it into fentanyl and combine it with other drugs, and then ship it across the US border.

In the last few years, shipments of fentanyl and fentanyl-laced products crossing the US/MX border have exploded, as the cartels seek to take advantage of migrant and asylee chaos and an overburdened border protection system.

Thanks to inaccurate rhetoric from brown-people-pearl-clutchers like Senator Blackburn, many people assume that fentanyl is being smuggled in by “illegals” in their backpacks and diaper bags. But that’s not the case.

Most migrants and asylum applicants who report to ports of authority (and even those attempting to cross the border illegally) are fleeing from the cartels. If forced to carry drugs, they would most likely just ditch them at the first opportunity.

The cartels are looking to develop regular delivery routes and ways to deliver drugs in quantity. They use regular commuters, long-haul truck drivers, and cross-border delivery vans who hide the drugs inside merchandise or hidden panels.

Two US women were caught near Tucson, AZ transporting fentanyl worth $4.3 million in their vehicle — an amount capable of killing 43 million people — one-sixth of the US population.

For example, on August 24th, 2022 border patrol agents arrested two US citizens for transporting fentanyl from Mexico. They seized 340 packages of fentanyl pills weighing a grand total of 187 pounds and worth an estimated $4.3 million. The DEA reportedly claims this one bust is enough fentanyl to kill over 42 million people — one-sixth of the US population.

Most of the fentanyl that makes its way into the US from Mexico is transported via both commercial and private vehicles through frontier checkpoints in California and Arizona, according to CBP statistics.

On August 30, 2022 a trailer truck crossing at a port-of-entry in Laredo, Texas claimed to be carrying only baby wipes but was found to have $11.8 million dollars worth of cocaine.

Earlier this year, in April, a US citizen arrested for speeding in south Tucson was transporting 371,000 fentanyl pills worth $1.4 million dollars. Her court filing says a man in Mexico offered her $5,000 to transport “some bags” across the border. He hired her on WhatsApp.

This week, on September 17, 2022 CBP officers at the Del Rio, Texas port-of-entry seized a shipment of methamphetamine valued at $11.9 million, hidden in a tractor-trailer rig.

Biden’s budget increases funding for CBP beyond Trump-era spending levels, including funding for hundreds of new border patrol agents and funneling hundreds of millions for border surveillance technology. The Biden administration is asking for a 5% increase overall for all DHS agencies.

Last spring, the Department of Homeland Security said in a memo that it recently added 600 law enforcement personnel to the border.

The Biden administration has also requested an additional increase in funding for CBP for fiscal 2023 — roughly $15 billion. That includes more than $5.4 billion for border security operations.

Damn little, apparently.

Republicans who demanded that all Covid restrictions be lifted (masks, vaccines, closures, distancing) were absolutely furious that the Biden administration attempted to lift Title 42, which allowed border agencies to use the Covid pandemic as an excuse to boot legal migrant and asylee applicants. In Blackburn’s world, what’s good for the goose is certainly not applicable to the gander. In retaliation for restoring the legal rights of immigrants, Republicans vowed to block all manner of unrelated budgetary proposals.

Blackburn, who always plays loose with facts, refused to back Biden’s infrastructure bill, claiming that:

“Most Tennesseans are just like me in that they are very pro-infrastructure, when it comes to roads and rails and rivers and runways and broadband, high-speed internet. What they do not want to see is their hard-earned tax-payer dollars wasted on … things like the Green New Deal, subsidies for electric vehicles. …”

There is no “Green New Deal” in the infrastructure package. She also insisted that the Keystone XL pipeline be restarted, while failing to inform anyone that the Canadian company sponsoring the project backed out. And as always, she insists that funds be allocated for a Wall.

Meanwhile, Blackburn blithely ignores the fact that her own state of Tennessee is a primary driver of demand for illicit drugs in the US.

For years, heroin was the “drug of choice” in Nashville, but in 2017, fentanyl became the drug that caused the most overdose fatalities.

The Appalachian region has a 65% higher mortality rate due to substance abuse than the rest of the nation, and 69% of those overdose deaths are opioid related.

Tennessee ranks higher than the national average for serious mental health illness in adults 18 or older, and has fewer mental health providers. Blackburn’s state has a much higher ratio of population to mental health providers (660:1) compared to the national average (400:1). Poverty, lack of education, and lack of health care are a concern in much of the region.

Marsha Blackburn’s state is the vacuum that is sucking fentanyl products into the US. Until she gets issues like poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and lack of proper health care in her own state under control, she is responsible for creating demand for these drugs in the US.



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Mary Baker

Freelance writer. Conservative-leaning, mostly moderate Independent. Libra. Loves good food and wine.