The officials of the U.S Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) have voiced their concerns about the cash seized by its officers during drug raids and other operations. The DEA is apparently concerned that its officers may sustain possible injuries and suffer from related harmful effects due to contact with the drug-laced cash. To address this issue, the agency has reached out to several potential industry partners that can help them decontaminate any confiscated cash and prevent any harm and damage that can result from handling them.
A solicitation from the agency made through a government procurement portal reiterated the agency’s concerns. The post mentioned that many of the substances present in the cash that DEA agents confiscate during their narcotics busts pose harmful effects to human health, and may even cause death. Because of this, a decontamination program is currently underway, with the agency searching for possible partners who can assist in their efforts and sufficiently address the needs of its 222 offices nationwide.
A list of these potential substances was also published, which include narcotics (fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, heroin), cannabinoids (marijuana, THC, JWH compounds), stimulants (amphetamines, cathinones), hallucinogens (LSD, PCP, NBOMes), depressants (benzodiazepines, barbiturates). Other likely dangerous chemicals used in the production of certain designer drugs may also be present in the seized currency. Once a vendor is found, this proposed program will be the first of its kind in American policing.
Criticism from Skeptics
However, other law enforcement agencies have articulated their skepticism about the necessity of the program. According to a representative from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the concept of toxic drug money is most likely a nonexistent one. The FBI representative asserted that it is standard procedure for agents to wear latex gloves when handling drug money. He believes that such gear is enough protection for the agents. Furthermore, it is already understood most American currency bear extremely minute traces of cocaine residue.
Another representative from the New York Police Department (NYPD) also maintained that the idea of decontaminating drug money is a novel one. However, he also believes that the DEA program came about as a result of the proliferation of designer drugs like fentanyl. These drugs can 50-100 times more potent than morphine. Accidental exposure to the drug may not only be harmful, it can also be life-threatening. Exposure, in this context, refers to any of the following: inhalation, mucous membrane contact, ingestion, and percutaneous exposure.
Forensic experts also find the idea of cash decontamination to be ludicrous. The skin cannot easily absorb opioids, including fentanyl, LSD, methamphetamine, and others. In order to present a significant harm to a person, these drugs have to be introduced into the bloodstream.