Mexican president floats fentanyl ban, violates US drug policy

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s president on Wednesday called the United States’ anti-drug policy a failure and proposed banning the medicinal use of fentanyl – despite the fact that only a small amount of the drug is transferred from hospitals to the illegal market.

In recent days, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been grappling with the issue of fentanyl, which has become a major security concern. López Obrador denied that Mexico produces fentanyl, which causes about 70,000 overdose deaths in the United States each year.

U.S. authorities estimate that most illegal fentanyl is produced in secret laboratories in Mexico using Chinese precursor chemicals. A relatively small portion of the illegal market comes from the diversion of medicinal fentanyl used as an anesthetic in surgeries and other procedures.

But López Obrador said he would ask doctors and experts whether all medical use of fentanyl could end in order to curb illicit use.

“We will also ask for an end to medical use in the United States,” López Obrador said.

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There have been only scattered and isolated reports of glass bottles containing medicinal fentanyl entering the illegal market. Most illegal fentanyl is pressed by Mexican cartels into counterfeit pills made to look like other drugs like Xanax, Oxycodone or Percocet.

Many people who take these pills do not know they are taking fentanyl.

On Tuesday, Mexico’s Defense Ministry said soldiers had found more than 1.83 million of these counterfeit fentanyl pills at a cache in the border city of Tijuana.

The influx of illegal fentanyl has sparked calls in the United States to designate Mexican drug gangs as terrorist organizations, and Republicans have called for the U.S. military to be used to fight Mexican cartels.

López Obrador has rejected calls to crack down on the cartels.

“We will not be their servants,” he said of the United States. “Mexicans elected us to protect Mexicans.”

“We have to help each other, but we don’t have to submit to anything, much less failed strategies,” he said, adding that the US drug enforcement agency had “proved that it can’t handle” the problem.

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Later Wednesday, Mexico’s top diplomat said his country had seized the equivalent of about 6 billion fentanyl pills. That’s almost certainly an exaggeration, given that most of the 6.5 tons of fentanyl seized by the government since late 2018 had apparently already been cut up or diluted when found.

Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said those in the United States calling for tougher measures were “to say the least ungrateful” for Mexico’s efforts.

Ebrard said Mexico is embarking on a public education campaign in the United States to raise awareness of Mexico’s ban efforts. López Obrador said both Mexico and the United States are starting public information efforts to educate people about the dangers of fentanyl.

Mexico’s president blamed a lack of American family values ​​for the rise in fentanyl use. López Obrador has given no sign of understanding that because Mexican cartels disguise fentanyl as a prescription drug, many Americans who take the pills don’t know they’re taking fentanyl.

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