LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Fentanyl – now a worldwide scourge killing countless drug users unaware of what they’re ingesting – started off as a small factor in law enforcement’s war on illegal narcotics. And it’s under that backdrop several years later that Democratic U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Metro police teamed up Monday to make the public aware of an animal tranquilizer which, when combined with fentanyl, makes the life-saving antidote Narcan completely ineffective.

But here’s the problem for the politicians and law enforcement: “It’s not illegal,” Cortez Masto said. Veterinarians prescribe it regularly, so the drug – Xylazine – cannot simply be outlawed.

So Cortez Masto is touring Senate Bill 993 to make it illegal to use the drug illegally. In doing so, the senator enlisted the support of the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association “because it is important that our veterinarians for large animals still have access to this tranquilizer,” Cortez Masto said.

The Clark County coroner indicates that Xylazine – or Tranq, as it’s more colloquially known – has been present in four drug overdose deaths since 2020, according to Nick Farese, Deputy Chief of the Investigative Services Division for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

But those traces of Xylazine are included in fentanyl overdose deaths, which is as startling to authorities as the fentanyl statistics as a whole.

“This year we’ve already seen over 450 overdose deaths in Clark County, and 50% of those have involved fentanyl,” Farese said. He said Metro has already seized 136 pounds of fentanyl from the valley’s streets in 2023.

Cortez Masto, bullish on this piece of legislation and others that stiffen penalties of fentanyl dealers and manufacturers, enumerated two priorities with regard to eliminating the threat of Xylazine.

First, she wants to assure that veterinarians are able to use the prescription drug for suitable purposes – namely, to medicate animals in need of the tranquilizer.

Second, she wants to give the federal Drug Enforcement Agency the weapons to take Tranq off the street. That means finding it here and abroad.

“A lot of the Xylazine is coming from Mexico and coming into Mexico from other countries,” Cortez Masto said.