WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump signed legislation Wednesday aimed at giving Customs and Border Protection agents additional screening devices and other tools to stop the flow of illicit drugs.
Speaking at a surprise bill signing ceremony flanked by members of Congress from both parties in the Oval Office, Trump described the bill as a "significant step forward" in the fight against powerful opioids such as fentanyl, which he called "our new big scourge."
"We used to have the 'Age of Aquarius.' Everyone thought that was a big drug age. That was nothing compared to this," he said, citing a nickname for the 1960s that's perhaps best associated with a song from the musical "Hair."
He warned that drug traffickers are "using our postal system and they're killing our people."
The legislation will pay for new portable and fixed chemical screening devices to detect and intercept fentanyl at ports of entry and in the mail, along with other laboratory equipment and personnel, including scientists. The law authorizes $15 million for new screening devices, laboratory equipment, facilities, and personnel for lab support. The money will be used to provide more portable chemical screening devices at ports of entry and mail and express consignment facilities and additional fixed chemical screening devices available in Customs and Border Protection laboratories, and provide CBP with sufficient resources, personnel, and facilities — including scientists available during all operational hours — to interpret screening test results from the field.
“This law is about giving law enforcement the tools they need to keep fentanyl out of our country and off Ohio streets,” said Sherrod Brown, who introduced the bill in the Senate. “We must build on this bipartisan momentum and come together to start combating the addiction epidemic like the public health emergency that it is.”
Trump has made fighting the opioid epidemic a centerpiece of his administration, though critics say he hasn't dedicated nearly enough money or resources to make a difference.
Trump suggested during his remarks that he'd like to take a more aggressive approach to the drug crisis — but the country's not ready for what he has in mind.
"So we're going to sign this. And it's a step. And it feels like a very giant step, but unfortunately it's not going to be a giant step, because no matter what you do, this is something that keeps pouring in," he said.
"And we're going to find the answer. There is an answer. I think I actually know the answer, but I'm not sure the country's ready for it yet," he added. "Does anybody know what I mean? I think so."