Pappas and Gonzales Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Stop Trafficking of Illegal Drugs Through the Dark Web

Press Release

Date: March 30, 2022

Today, Congressman Chris Pappas (NH-01) and Congressman Tony Gonzales (TX-23) introduced bipartisan legislation in the House that would increase penalties for drug dealers and strengthen the United States' efforts to stop the trafficking of illegal drugs through the dark web. Senators Maggie Hassan and John Cornyn have introduced similar legislation in the Senate.

Drug dealers use the dark web to traffic illegal drugs, exacerbating the substance use disorder crisis that is devastating communities in New Hampshire and across the United States. The anonymity the internet provides has made it more difficult to identify and prosecute the individuals and organizations who administer or otherwise operate websites on the dark web that facilitate the distribution of illegal drugs.

"Confronting the ongoing substance use disorder crisis requires us to act on multiple fronts, including online," said Congressman Pappas. "Increasing penalties for those caught trafficking drugs online and making permanent the successful J-CODE task force are critical steps that will help law enforcement continue to crack down on dark web traffickers and keep our communities safe. I urge my colleagues in the House to support this legislation to help keep dangerous substances out of our communities, and I thank Representative Gonzales for partnering with me on this important issue."

"We're seeing the devastating and deadly results of the opioid crisis in both cities and rural areas across the country, fueled in large part by the dark web," said Congressman Gonzales. "These illegal marketplaces are a hub and a safe haven for some of society's most dangerous criminals, and as these bad actors get more advanced, we need to ensure our law enforcement have the proper tools to crack down on their efforts. I am proud to co-lead this effort alongside Congressman Pappas to help law enforcement apprehend and convict contraband dealers across the dark web."

Specifically, this legislation would:

Increase criminal penalties for someone caught trafficking illegal drugs on the dark web by directing the United States Sentencing Commission to enhance sentencing for those individuals.
Strengthen and make permanent the Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE) task force that leads coordinated international, federal, state, and local efforts to combat drug trafficking on the dark web, and authorize them to coordinate with non-profits to expand their work. Since its creation in 2018, J-CODE has led to hundreds of arrests worldwide, seizures of thousands of pounds of narcotics, and the closure of several dark web marketplaces.
Direct the Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Treasury Department to issue a report to Congress within one year detailing the use of cryptocurrency on the dark web, as well as provide recommendations for how Congress can address the use of virtual currency for opioid trafficking on the dark web.
This legislation is supported by the United States Deputy Sheriff's Association and National HIDTA Directors Association.

Congressman Pappas has been a leader in confronting the opioid crisis during his time in Congress, taking the following actions to combat trafficking of deadly substances and expand treatment opportunities for individuals struggling with substance misuse disorder:

On March 28, Congressman Chris Pappas, alongside Representatives Larry Bucshon, M.D. (IN-08), Cindy Axne (IA-03), and Mariannette Miller-Meeks, M.D. (IA-02) introduced bipartisan legislation to increase access to treatment for Americans suffering from opioid use disorder. H.R. 7238, the Timely Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder Act would revise opioid treatment program criteria to remove the requirement that patients must have been addicted for at least one year before being admitted for treatment.
On March 7, Pappas, alongside Representatives Dan Newhouse (WA-04) and Ted Budd (NC-13), introduced the bipartisan Save Americans from the Fentanyl Emergency Act of 2022, or SAFE Act of 2022, to permanently schedule all fentanyl-related substances as Schedule I drugs to ensure law enforcement can keep them off the streets.
On January 12, 2022, Pappas and Congressman Vern Buchanan (FL-16) led 36 of their colleagues in a bipartisan call for Congressional leadership to prioritize further Congressional action to stop fentanyl trafficking, permanently classify fentanyl analogues as a Schedule I substance, giving law enforcement and public health experts the tools they need to combat the ongoing opioid epidemic.
Pappas is an original cosponsor of H.R. 6311, the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency Act, which would provide $125 billion over ten years to expand access to treatment and recovery support services for people with substance use disorders.
Pappas is a cosponsor of H.R. 5382, the POWER Act, which would provide grants for law enforcement to purchase chemical screening devices to detect substances like illegal fentanyl.
On December 8, 2021, legislation Pappas introduced alongside Congressman Andy Kim (NJ-03), the Synthetic Opioid Danger Awareness Act, passed the House. The legislation will require the CDC, OSHA and other federal agencies to direct public awareness campaigns and training for first responders about the dangers of synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
On June 30, 2021, Pappas, alongside the New Hampshire delegation, announced CARA Local Drug Crisis Grants to help stem the substance use disorder epidemic in New Hampshire. The recipients include the Dover Coalition for Youth and the Raymond Coalition for Youth, each of which will receive $250,000 over five years.
On June 28, 2021, Pappas and Buchanan sent a letter to House leadership demanding action on permanent scheduling of fentanyl-related substances by passing the FIGHT Fentanyl Act.
Pappas is a cosponsor of H.R. 3259, the Non-Opioids Prevent Addiction In the Nation Act, or the NOPAIN Act, which would establish separate payments for certain non-opioid treatments in outpatient surgical settings, so as to support pain management treatments that would replace or reduce opioid consumption.
On May 18, 2021, Pappas introduced the bipartisan Federal Initiative to Guarantee Health by Targeting (FIGHT) Fentanyl Act alongside Rep. Vern Buchanan (FL-16) to help keep deadly synthetic drugs off the streets by placing fentanyl-related substances permanently on the Schedule I list.
On November 18, 2020, Pappas helped to pass H.R. 7990, the Fighting Emerging Narcotics Through Additional Nations to Yield Lasting Results Act, or FENTANYL Results Act, which would prioritize efforts of the Department of State to combat international trafficking via increased collaboration with the international community through shared anti-trafficking initiatives and capacity-building measures.
On July 17, 2020, Pappas joined the New Hampshire delegation in calling on congressional leadership to provide additional Substance Use Disorder (SUD) prevention funding for SUD services in the next COVID-19 relief package.
Pappas is a cosponsor of H.R. 2466, the State Opioid Response Grant Authorization Act of 2020, which would reauthorize the State Opioid Response Grants Program, which is administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), through FY2026.
Pappas is a cosponsor of H.R. 2439 and H.R. 3414, the Opioid Workforce Act of 2019; which would increase the number of residency positions eligible for graduate medical education payments under Medicare for hospitals that have addiction or pain management programs.