Trump signs bill to improve opioid screening technology

President Donald Trump speaks after signing into law the bipartisan Interdict Act, during a ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump signed legislation Wednesday aimed at giving Customs and Border Protection agents additional screening devices and other tools to stop the flow of illicit drugs.

Speaking at a surprise bill signing ceremony flanked by members of Congress from both parties in the Oval Office, Trump described the bill as a "significant step forward" in the fight against powerful opioids such as fentanyl, which he called "our new big scourge."

"We used to have the 'Age of Aquarius.' Everyone thought that was a big drug age. That was nothing compared to this," he said, citing a nickname for the 1960s that's perhaps best associated with a song from the musical "Hair."

He warned that drug traffickers are "using our postal system and they're killing our people."

The legislation will pay for new portable and fixed chemical screening devices to detect and intercept fentanyl at ports of entry and in the mail, along with other laboratory equipment and personnel, including scientists.

Trump has made fighting the opioid epidemic a centerpiece of his administration, though critics say he hasn't dedicated nearly enough money or resources to make a difference.

Trump suggested during his remarks that he'd like to take a more aggressive approach to the drug crisis — but the country's not ready for what he has in mind.

"So we're going to sign this. And it's a step. And it feels like a very giant step, but unfortunately it's not going to be a giant step, because no matter what you do, this is something that keeps pouring in," he said.

"And we're going to find the answer. There is an answer. I think I actually know the answer, but I'm not sure the country's ready for it yet," he added. "Does anybody know what I mean? I think so."

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