Bill Targeting Opioids Sent By Mail Up For Senate Vote

By Kelly Burch 09/14/18
The STOP Act will require the U.S. Postal Service to collect electronic data on packages being shipped into the country.
postal worker at the back of mail truck

The Senate will likely pass a bill this week that aims to reduce the number of fentanyl shipments coming into the country via the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). 

The STOP Act, which stands for Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention, will require the postal service to collect electronic data on packages being shipped into the country, including the sender’s and recipient’s addresses and the contents as described by the sender.

Right now, only private courier services like FedEx, UPS and DHL require this information, which means that people can send opioids through the postal service and be virtually untraceable. 

Illicit fentanyl can be easily made in China and shipped to the United States, since a small volume is immensely powerful and profitable. 

“We are being overrun with fentanyl,” Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who led an 18-month study of illegal imports, told the New York Times. “It is 50 times more powerful than heroin. It is very inexpensive. It is coming primarily from China and coming primarily through our U.S. Postal Service, if you can believe it.”

In addition to requiring that the postal service gather additional information on packages, the bill would make is possible for the government to levy fines to the postal service if it does not comply. The postal service would also have the authority to block or destroy packages that have not been properly identified.

Right now, the postal service must “obtain a warrant to inspect the contents of suspect parcels,” according to William Siemer, acting deputy inspector general of USPS, who testified before Congress this year.

President Trump supports the measures, taking to Twitter to voice his enthusiasm. 

“It is outrageous that Poisonous Synthetic Heroin Fentanyl comes pouring into the U.S. Postal System from China,” he wrote last month in a tweet. “We can, and must, END THIS NOW! The Senate should pass the STOP ACT—and firmly STOP this poison from killing our children and destroying our country.”

The STOP Act has been languishing after it was introduced nearly 18 months ago, allowing shipments of opioids to continue. However, the House passed a similar initiative over the summer, prompting the Senate to move on the issue.

In addition to addressing the dangers of opioid shipments, the bill would also expand access to treatment for infants born dependent on opioids, implement more stringent packaging requirements for some medications, and accelerate research into non-addictive painkillers that could potentially replace opioids. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.