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Imposing Sanctions On Foreign Persons Involved In The Global Illicit Drug Trade

On 15th December 2021, the president of the United States, Joe Biden signed the executive order 1409, titled, "Imposing Sanctions on Foreign Persons Involved in the Global Illicit Drug Trade." The EO is meant to battle narcotics trafficking and foreigners who engage in illegal drug trade into the United States, killing countless Americans each year. With this EO, severe sanctions would be imposed upon those trafficking drugs like fentanyl and certain other lethal synthetic opioids. Here is everything you need to know about EO 1409. 

Effects Of The Sanction 

The EO 1409 imposes sanctions on any foreign individual or group that have been found to;

  • Engage in activities that played a role in the international multiplication of illicit drugs. Those that have contributed to the increase in the means of production also find themselves targeted by the sanctions. 
  • Have deliberately received property known to constitute from the proceeds of the illicit drug multiplication or from foreign individuals who have been known to engage in or facilitate the illegal drug trade and proliferation activity. 
  • Provide goods, services, financial support, technological support, or material support to any cause facilitating illicit drug activity. 
  • Lead or headed any group or individual engaged in the illicit drug trade or proliferation. 
  • Have followed, been controlled, and directed by any sanctioned person, as per the provisions of the EO.

Here, multiplication or proliferation refers to any activity that enables the production, manufacture, distribution, sale, financing, and/or transportation of narcotic drugs or other illicit controlled substances. 

Some of the provisions of this EO resemble those of the US criminal money laundering statute, under which the transactions from the proceeds of specified unlawful activity are prohibited. The one improvement provision of the EO that has garnered much notice is that foreign individuals who get the proceeds of illicit drug activity can be pursued by a sanctions designation instead of criminal prosecution. This is noteworthy because there are notable differences in the evidentiary standards, jurisdictional constraints, and procedural mechanisms between the criminal cases and sanctions. 

Another significant impact of the new EO is that the Treasury Department is empowered to impose sanctions on the individuals and groups engaged in facilitating illicit drug trafficking based on the nature of the proceeds they have control over. 

The Menace Of Drug Trade In the United States 

Drug trade and abuse is a severe problem that has grappled the population of the United States for a long time. The fact that illicit drugs are easily accessible in the country proves just how rampant the trafficking and movement of synthetic opioids has become, which has alarmed the government and prompted them to take severe actions against it, including, as we mentioned before, the imposition of EO 1409. Some of the drugs that form the major portion of the drug trafficking offenses are as follows:

  • Methamphetamine
  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  • Oxycodone
  • Crack

Here are some staggering statistics that speak volumes about the problem of drug trafficking in the United States. 

  • The majority of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) focus is laid on the Mexican drug cartels since a large portion of drug smuggling into the country is done by them, as is the distribution of the drugs within the United States. 
  • Africa has appeared to be a new threat since the place is used as a transit shipping point by Asian and South American drug establishments. 
  • There was a sharp increase, estimated to be about 50%, in the number of people punished for heroin trafficking crimes in the country between 2011 and 2015.

The various government agencies, including DEA, have been actively trying to curb the cross-border drug trade and the distribution of drugs within the United States by foreign parties. However, with ever-evolving ways of enabling the vehicle of trafficking by international parties, there are some challenges that the US still faces. 

For instance, some drug organizations have now begun to use social media and encrypted technologies to communicate with others in the network regarding drug shipments. The same means are used to recruit new members into the fold of the drug trade. With such elaborate methods, it has become tricky for the government to keep tabs on the movement of drugs or the individuals enabling the system. It has become equally difficult to monitor the actions of Mexican drug cartels, the main brains behind most of the drug-related criminal activity. 

Impact Of The Drug Trafficking 

With the easy movement of drug shipments into the United States and then within the country, obtaining illicit drugs has become easier for the citizens, many of whom contribute to the acquisition and distribution, apart from the final consumption. In recent years, the US has witnessed a spike in overdose cases and deaths, enough to alarm the government. In fact, drug overdose is now one of the country's leading causes of injury deaths. Between 2000-2015, the cases of overdose and drug deaths have doubled, while deaths with opioids involved have tripled within the same period. 

Another concern is that some prescription opioids are laced with illicit substances. The problem of counterfeit prescription painkillers, in which drugs are mixed, is on the high rise, especially because, at times, the users don't know whether the painkiller they are consuming is legit or tampered with. This has also resulted in a significant number of drug-related deaths. 

While the problem of drug trafficking continues to plague the United States, the government has already enforced it. It continues to implement serious sanctions and curbs to curtail transportation of the drugs within the US, especially from Mexico, and through all kinds of transport, including road, air, and sea. Federal Drug Trafficking Penalties 21 USC 841 and Federal Drug Possession Penalties are only a few to name that have worked towards keeping the influx of illicit drugs in the country in check. In addition to this, several federal and state laws have been put in place to sentence those who possess, consume and distribute illicit drugs in the country, be it foreign parties or the American citizens themselves.