Rep. Boebert introduces legislation to classify Fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction

The compound has been weaponized before, but with a comparatively small death toll that doesn’t stack up to other WMDs
FILE - Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., speaks at a news conference held by members of the House...
FILE - Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., speaks at a news conference held by members of the House Freedom Caucus on Capitol Hill in Washington, on July 29, 2021.(Andrew Harnik | AP)
Published: Jun. 13, 2022 at 4:15 PM MDT
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WASHINGTON, D.C., (KKCO) - Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert introduced new legislation on Monday afternoon that would qualify Fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction, akin to nuclear weapons. Boebert states, “It is time to call Fentanyl what it is: a weapon of mass destruction that is destroying our nation.” Fentanyl killed 900 of Coloradans and 91,799 of Americans in 2020, and some are citing concerns that the already deadly drug could be weaponized.

Given the catastrophic effect WMDs have on human populations, we took a deep look into Fentanyl’s weaponization in the past and how it compares to other WMDs.

Fentanyl has been used as a weapon before, not as a weapon of mass destruction as Boebert argues, but as a Russian counter-terrorism tactic. She cites a hostage crisis in October of 2002 as her motivation, where forty Chechen terrorists seized Moscow’s Dubrovka Theater and more than 800 hostages. Explosives were scattered across the theater, and the terrorists threatened to detonate unless the Russian campaign in Chechnya was brought to an end.

After days of failed negotiations and the Chechens’ threat to start killing hostages, a Russian security forces decided to pump an aerosolized combination of two Fentanyl analogues into the theater, with the intention of incapacitating everyone inside. All of the Chechen terrorists and about 130 of the 800 total hostages were killed in the process, but the majority of the hostages survived.

The international reaction to the Russian response to the crisis was largely positive, as this was in a world where 9/11 was still a fresh memory and Russia was considered a friendly country. “Context is important here,” said John Caves Jr., an expert on biological and chemical defense for the Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction. “There was great concern that the Chechens would kill most of the hostages by blowing up the building. That only about 130 hostages died could be considered a win, given the circumstances.”

For comparison, the B83 nuclear bomb currently in use by the United States Military has a yield of about 1,200 kilotons of TNT, putting it at about 80 times the explosive yield of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. In just a single detonation, 135,000 people were dead or dying. Days later, 64,000 people were annihilated in similar fashion in Nagasaki, Japan. Fentanyl killed over 90 thousand people in 2020, meaning that two nuclear detonations in the span of just three days killed over twice as many people than Fentanyl killed in 2020.

Chemical weapons deployed since World War One have claimed more than one million lives worldwide, and many of those who survived chemical weapon attacks are permanently disfigured or disabled. However, not all chemical weapons are considered weapons of mass destruction.

Caves argues that Fentanyl should be classified as a potential chemical weapon, but not as a weapon of mass destruction. “It is not evident that there is any basis or need for officially designating Fentanyl compounds as weapons of mass destruction, however that may be defined,” said Caves. “But it is clear that there is at least a risk that Fentanyl compounds could be used as chemical weapons.”

Boebert’s legislation would only target the illicit use of Fentanyl, and won’t interfere with legal usage. The bill would also allocate resources for technological development, suggested Fentanyl-detecting sensors, and “analytical data-based decision-making.”

Co-Sponsors of the bill include Representatives Mary Miller (IL-15), Dan Bishop (NC-09), Bill Posey (FL-08), Ralph Norman (SC-05), Paul Gosar (AZ-04), Andrew Clyde (GA-09), Clay Higgins (LA-03), Barry Moore (AL-02), and Troy Nehls (TX-22).

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