Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) introduced legislation this week to make the distribution of fentanyl resulting in death a felony murder offense.

“Fentanyl is killing Americans at a record high,” Rubio said in a statement. “This deadly drug is widespread throughout our country and has left no community untouched. This bill would make drug dealers pay the price for selling deadly fentanyl.” 

Rubio was joined 13 Republican co-sponsors on the Senate side.

Fentanyl overdoses resulted in about 71,000 deaths in the United States in 2021, up from about 58,000 the year before, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The synthetic opioid is a major driver of the rising rate of drug overdose deaths in the U.S., which reached record highs in 2021.

Rubio said in his announcement that fentanyl use is the leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of 18 and 45. The Associated Press has debunked similar claims that fentanyl is the leading cause of death among US adults. Both heart disease and cancer kill more people, per the CDC.

Several Republican lawmakers have reiterated the claim in recent months, as they have proposed legislation to address the drug’s impact, such as Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) while pitching legislation in June to classify fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction.

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