Importation Endangers Law Enforcers Warns Sheriff Keith Cain

The Kentucky Messenger-Inquirer published this editorial by Keith Cain, a Daviess County sheriff. Cain is a 44- year veteran of law enforcement, serves on the executive board of the National Sheriffs' Association and chairs its Drug Enforcement Committee.

Legalized drug importation endangers law enforcers

During my law enforcement career, spanning four decades, I have spent a great deal of time investigating crimes related to illegal drug use and trafficking. The growing scourge of methamphetamine and opioid use is unlike other crimes I have prosecuted in the past. It has literally changed the way we protect our citizens and officers. In addition to the traditional equipment carried by an officer, they must now equip themselves with Naloxone to counteract the effects of an opioid overdose, thusly, amending our existing policies has become necessary.

Increasingly, drugs discovered from searches of suspects and crime scenes contain "fentanyl," a deadly drug that is reported to have 100 times the potency of morphine. The slightest exposure to fentanyl could prove to be deadly to our officers. Due to this hazard, I have directed my deputies to suspend field drug testing. This, too, has hindered an existing backlog at our forensic crime laboratory. The introduction of fentanyl simply adds yet another unique threat to an already difficult and dangerous job, as we are increasingly being inundated with drug-related calls for service.

Because this threat is known, and well-documented, I find it disconcerting that Congress is considering legislation to legalize the importation of prescription pharmaceuticals from foreign countries. It is not difficult to foresee the adverse effects this possibly will impose upon our communities. In addition, small agencies simply won't have the resources to cope with these maladies without help from the state or national level. As you know, in these financially trying times, the likelihood of these additional funds coming to fruition is miniscule.

Quite frankly, I understand the lure of importing prescription drugs, possibly saving our constituents money as they deal with rising health care prices. Unfortunately, I believe Congress is short-sighted when one considers the dangers of this proposed policy. My opinion is shared by the National Sheriffs' Association, of which I am a board member. The NSA recently passed a resolution in opposition of legalizing prescription drug importation. These law enforcement professionals recognize the danger this would pose to our officers and fellow first responders.

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh came to the same conclusion in a report he recently released. After interviewing officials with the FBI, the DEA and the FDA, he concluded that drug importation from foreign sources would open the U.S. drug supply to illegal products and adulterated or counterfeit drugs. Subsequently, he believes this would deplete, or at the least, overburden the already limited law enforcement resources available.

On a daily basis, global drug enterprises are attempting to introduce their illegal drugs into the U.S. market. If prescription drug importation is legalized, the FDA could not possibly verify the country of origin for these drugs. Research shows that leading counterfeit drug producing countries, such as China and Pakistan, are attempting to bring drugs into our country through Canada and Mexico. I find this particularly disturbing because our current fentanyl crisis originates from clandestine labs in these areas.

Legalized prescription drug importation will, undoubtedly, tremendously increase the burden on law enforcement agencies across the country as we battle this epidemic. I am hopeful Congress will eventually see past the political attraction of money-saving drugs, and focus on the dangers that loom ahead of us. After all, their responsibility, like ours, is the protection and safety of their constituents. There is an old adage regarding risk assessment: "If it is predictable, it is preventable." I am puzzled as to why, after the documented danger to the public and law enforcement, would Congress seriously consider such a proposal.

It is my explicit professional opinion this proposed legislation would have catastrophic and disastrous consequences. Drug importation is not the answer to a growing problem that needs real solutions.