Ohio House wants federal government to label drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations

Ohio’s state House overwhelmingly voted to approve a resolution calling on the federal government to label all drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations.

The state House voted 95-1 in favor of House Concurrent Resolution 10. Before adopting, House members amended the resolution to ask the federal government to label all cartels as foreign terrorist organizations, not just Mexican cartels.

The move could allow the federal government to seize cartels’ financial assets and increase their intelligence gathering capabilities. Taking this action could open up resources for the state and jurisdictions across Ohio to fight the opioid epidemic.

“The men and women of our local state law enforcement agencies are doing a good job, but they are up against criminal organizations that span state lines and several national boundaries,” state Rep. Scott Wiggam, R-Wooster, said on the House floor before the vote. “With this vote today, we’re asking the federal government to support our law enforcement here in the state of Ohio and across our country.”

Experts believe Ohio is a vital distribution point for drug cartels because of its central location in the country. In testifying before the House Criminal Justice Committee earlier this month, Derek Maltz, who worked for 28 years as a special agent in the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), said cartels operate like international businesses, but their tactics are similar to terrorist organizations.

“This resolution will just give us more power. It will get the federal government more engaged because we all have this problem in our districts, we all have constituents that continually tell us about the problems in our districts,” House Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Dayton, said on the House floor. “This is just another tool in the toolbox for us to do our jobs to combat these terrorist organizations.”

“As we all know, we’ve been fighting this opiate epidemic for six strong years,” Plummer, the former sheriff of Montgomery County, said. “This year we’re urging the federal government to be more engaged, give us more resources.”

In 2017, Ohio experienced the nation’s second highest rate of drug overdose deaths involving opioids, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The state’s rate of 39.2 deaths per 100,000 residents far exceeds the national rate of 14.6 deaths per 100,000 people.

“We are facing an unprecedented drug crisis in America,” Wiggam said. “In 2017 alone, Ohioans spent over a billion dollars treating those affected by the opioid epidemic.

“Many of us, in some way, shape or form, have encountered individuals, friends, even family members who have become addicted or lost their lives to … this epidemic,” he added. “These individuals come from all walks of life, including young adults and children. Ohio sits at the epicenter of this national opioid crisis.”

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