Carfentanil Often Streams Into The Country Via The Postal Service

By Kelly Burch 10/03/16

A new bill in the Senate aims to crack down on loopholes that make it easy to ship narcotics internationally. 

Carfentanil Often Streams Into The Country Via The Postal Service

Dangerous new opiates are coming into the United States not through drug smugglers or complicated underground networks, but via the U.S. Postal Service. 

“It comes from our postal system and their postal system into the United States. Unbelievable—the poison is coming in the mail to our communities,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) recently said in a floor speech, according to The Washington Times.

The issue of shipping drugs through the postal service has come to light as carfentanil has become more common in the U.S. The powerful opiate is intended to be used as a tranquilizer for large animals like elephants. However, it is increasingly being found in the heroin supply, and has contributed to a rash of overdoses in Ohio over the summer. 

Now lawmakers say carfentanil is shipped directly into the country using the U.S. Postal Service. “The trafficking of synthetic drugs through the mail is killing Americans. We must put an end to it,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) in a press release.

To try to curb the shipment of illegal opiates through the mail system, Sens. Johnson, Portman and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) have introduced legislation aimed at gathering information on foreign shipments. The Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act would require that foreign mail services provide information on packages coming into the U.S. 

“In addition to focusing resources on prevention, treatment, and recovery, a fundamental part of our comprehensive response to the opioid epidemic must include efforts to cut off the supply of dangerous drugs – like fentanyl and carfentanil – coming to our country, often from China,” said Sen. Ayotte in the press release.

Private carriers like FedEx are required to gather some information on the recipients and contents of packages before they are shipped to the United States. However, the U.S. Postal Service is not required to gather the same data, a loophole that drug traffickers are utilizing to their benefit. 

“Our bill will strengthen postal rules for packages shipped through the United States Postal Service, bringing them in line with requirements applicable to private shippers,” Ayotte said. “These requirements will help law enforcement more quickly gather information when tracking and interdicting an illegal shipment and help us more effectively stop dangerous drugs from reaching traffickers inside our borders.”

The data that is gathered on packages allows U.S. Customs and Border Protection to target specific suspicious shipments. The U.S. Postal Service receives limited information from some countries on a voluntary basis, but the STOP Act would mandate the information gathering. 

The postal service is already working with the Department of Homeland Security to gather more information on packages, but a spokesperson said that the service is also open to supporting the STOP Act. 

“We continue to evaluate the bill’s language and share the goal of Sen. Portman and others calling for expanding efforts to keep illicit drugs and other dangerous materials out of the hands of the American public and maintaining the safety of our nation’s mail system,” said a spokesman for the postal service. 

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