A large fentanyl shipment headed from Memphis, Tennessee to Houston was seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Tuesday (September 7).
According to the CBP, there were 2.85 kilos of fentanyl hidden in wooden boxes, enough to kill hundreds of thousands of people potentially. The drug has grown in public stature in recent years following the overdoses of music legends Prince and Tom Petty and being the alleged reason for the death of actor Michael K. Williams.
“This might seem like a small seizure from a little handicraft gift box,” Acting Area Port Director Benjamin Canfield said in Memphis. “But if we look at those DEA numbers, this had the potential to overdose or kill 1.425 million people. That’s a lot of poison to be shipped to a residence in southeast Houston.”
The fentanyl originated from Michoacan, Mexico and was discovered by customs agents at a Memphis port hub. Lab tests confirmed it was fentanyl after the pills and white powdery substance were discovered inside boxes labeled “Wood Crafts Art.”
How Dangerous Is Fentanyl?
The drug is used legally to treat severe pain, but the DEA says some users mix it with other drugs to increase the potency and goes for $4,000 a kilo – a relatively low price for drug traffickers.
According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, the synthetic opioid is similar to morphine but about 100 times more potent.
“Because of its potency and low cost, drug dealers have been mixing fentanyl with other drugs including heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine, increasing the likelihood of a fatal interaction,” according to DEA.gov. “Drug trafficking organizations typically distribute Fentanyl by the kilogram. One kilogram of Fentanyl has the potential to kill 500,000 people.”
Fentanyl is often sold as powders and nasal sprays, according to the DEA. Traffickers have increasingly pressed the drug into pills to make them look like legitimate prescription opioids.
Have There Been Major Fentanyl Busts?
In Texas alone, the number of fentanyl busts has skyrocketed. In May, CBP agents reported a 300 percent year-to-year increase along the Texas border. According to data compiled by the DPS, they seized 10.6 pounds of fentanyl from January 2020 to April 2020. The weight of seized fentanyl by troopers jumped to 94.5 pounds through April 2021 – a nearly 794-percent increase year over year. CBP agents reported a 300 percent year-to-year increase in fentanyl busts along the border in the Rio Grande Valley.
In August, CBP agents in California revealed they seized 2.8 tons of methamphetamine and fentanyl inside plastic household materials. The street value of the drugs was nearly $13 million.
“This amount of fentanyl and methamphetamine is enough to ruin countless lives and fund transnational criminal organizations,” Pete Flores, CBP Director of Field Operations in San Diego said.
Among the numerous Texas laws which went into effect on September 1, the legislature passed a bipartisan bill increasing prison time for anyone who makes or sells illegal fentanyl. The crisis around the drug is one of the reasons why Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wants a border wall at the Texas border, calling the drug “one of the most dangerous” currently on the street.