Washington Post Highlights Portman’s Fentanyl Investigation & STOP Act Law

August 26, 2019 | Portman Difference

Over the weekend, the Washington Post highlighted Senator Portman’s efforts to stop dangerous synthetic opioids like fentanyl from being shipped into the United States from China through the U.S. Postal Service and his STOP Act legislation that was signed into law last year.

The full story titled “The Flow of Fentanyl: In the Mail, Over the Border” can be viewed here and following are several excerpts from the story:

In 2018, Congress passed another tracking law, this time to try to stanch the flow of fentanyl coursing through the mail. The measure requires that all packages from foreign countries include tracking data, but the Postal Service tried to defeat the measure and has still not implemented all the safeguards required, such as tracking the senders and receivers of all packages from China, according to Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who co-sponsored the bill.

“How much longer is the post office going to sit on this, and how many people have to die before the post office gets serious about this?” Portman said in an interview.

The story also discusses Portman’s role as Chairman of the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), which conducted an 18-month investigation into this issue and released a stunning bipartisan report detailing how drug traffickers exploit vulnerabilities in our international mail system to easily ship synthetic drugs from China into the U.S.:

The U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which Portman chairs, launched the probe into fentanyl trafficking. Several investigators from the Department of Homeland Security worked undercover as part of the inquiry and focused on six fentanyl suppliers, five based in China, that were selling the drug over the Internet.

Eighteen months later, in January 2018, the subcommittee released its report.

The investigators found the suppliers they targeted — which sent hundreds of packages to more than 300 people — by using simple Google searches such as “fentanyl for sale.” The suppliers said they preferred to ship fentanyl through regular express mail.

Portman’s investigation disclosed that seven people died from fentanyl overdoses after buying the drug from the small group of online sellers the inquiry had focused on. One of the deceased, an Ohio man, paid $2,500 for 15 packages he received between May 2016 and February 2017.

In the fall of 2018, the Senate passed a bill introduced by Portman called the STOP (Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention) Act. It required all senders of international mail packages to provide basic shipping information to CBP, including the name and address of the shipper and the recipient of the package.

The Postal Service initially opposed the bill, according to Portman.

“They just said it was impractical and too costly,” Portman said.

Robert Cintron, vice president of network operations management for the Postal Service, testified before the Senate that the legislation could potentially force his agency to stop accepting mail from many countries.

“The blocking of inbound mail destined for the United States could also lead other countries to block outbound mail originating in the United States,” Cintron testified.

Cintron also said the STOP Act would impose “enormous new costs,” estimated at $1.2 billion to $4.8 billion over a decade. The Postal Service has struggled financially for years.

Portman’s bill passed Congress with bipartisan support in October, less than two weeks before the midterm elections, but years after local officials, such as those in Dayton, were imploring Congress for help. Trump signed it into law.

President Trump signed Portman’s STOP Act legislation into law on October 24, 2018.  Recently, Portman sent a letter to Postal Service and the Customs and Border Protection on their failure to fully comply with the STOP Act’s initial deadlines. The law requires the Postal Service to refuse any shipments without the required advance electronic data received after December 31, 2020.