In September, Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) was a co-sponsor of the Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention Act, which would have resulted in closer scrutiny of packages coming from overseas through the U.S. Postal Service. The legislation died at the end of the session and did not see a vote.
Mr. Portman said he will reintroduce the legislation within the next couple of weeks. Congress must act this time. The STOP Act would give law enforcement a valuable tool in cutting off the supply of fentanyl, carfentanil, and other synthetic opioids.
The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s recent report found that fentanyl shipments are flooding into Ohio from China, India, and Mexico.
Ohio is a prime destination for heroin and fentanyl because of the numerous interstates that crisscross the state, giving dealers easy access to major cities in Ohio and nearby states. Ohio had 3,861 positive lab tests for fentanyl in 2015, far more than the 2,556 of second-place Massachusetts.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid about 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more powerful than morphine. Dealers mix it into their heroin to give the drug a bigger kick and make supplies last longer. Two milligrams of it can be lethal to unsuspecting drug users. Whereas heroin typically flows across the Mexican border, fentanyl is often shipped through U.S. mail from unregulated pharmacies overseas.
In Lucas County last weekend, the Drug Abuse Response Team responded to 19 overdose calls Friday through Sunday. Many of those calls were believed to be linked to fentanyl. In Cuyahoga County, 14 people died during the same period, and 24 died in the first five days of the month. Again, the blame was placed on fentanyl.
The United States Postal Service is an easy mark for overseas drug runners because, unlike FedEx and UPS, the Postal Service does not require electronic security data on packages.
The STOP Act would require packages to include electronic data indicating who the package is from, who it is going to, and where it is going.
“I’m not saying this will solve the problem because, as we know, there is so much money involved in this, and there are so many evil people willing to figure out a way to harm our children. They may figure out other ways to do it,” Mr. Portman told The Blade editorial board. “But we believe, talking to law enforcement, that this will be an effective way to reduce the flow into our communities.”
It is a necessary step and should be taken with little debate. It will mean more work for Postal Service workers, but lives are being lost, families are being decimated, and police and fire departments are being stretched thin.
Congress is divided on many issues, but surely all members should recognize that this is a crisis that is ripping communities apart. The STOP Act is just one tool and one step forward in the fight, but it is a step that must be taken as soon as possible.
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