Sen. Rob Portman
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
Near the end of last month, Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) chaired a Senate hearing on his bombshell report on how deadly fentanyl is being shipped through the United States Postal Service into this country, with few obstacles.
During the hearing, the senator asked a simple question: “How many more people have to die before we keep this poison out of our communities?”
So far, the Postal Service and our congressmen have done little to stop that poison.
Mr. Portman’s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has released a damning report that should shame legislators and USPS officials alike.
Last year, congressional investigators set out to discover how easy it was to buy fentanyl online. It turns out that it is very easy. By Googling “fentanyl for sale,” the investigators discovered hundreds of sites eager to make a sale. Most of the sites were from China, where fentanyl is produced in illegal laboratories.
The sites were narrowed to six websites. Investigators sent them questions about how to ship the drugs, and all of the online sellers said they would do it through the Postal Service because it was guaranteed not to be confiscated.
In 2002, Congress mandated that private carriers have advance electronic data — names and addresses of shippers and recipients — on international packages. It was left up to the Postmaster General as to what kind of tracking the USPS would require. As of today, the USPS requires very little.
Last year, only 36 percent of the nearly 500 million packages shipped from overseas through the Postal Service had any tracking data. More than 318 million packages had none, and many of the remaining packages had often indecipherable information that made it impossible for authorities to locate a sender.
This is unacceptable.
Last year in Ohio, about 60 percent of fatal overdoses in Ohio were tied to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin. In Ottawa County, authorities recently sent out an alert after five people overdosed, three fatally, in a one-week span. Police believe that there is a particularly toxic batch of heroin, laced with fentanyl or carfentanil, making its way through the community. Fentanyl is the poison that must be stopped to turn the tide in this drug war.
Senator Portman has offered a simple solution. His Synthetic Trafficking & Overdose Prevention Act would require advanced electronic data on international packages shipped through the USPS. It has 29 co-sponsors — Republicans and Democrats, including Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown.
The STOP Act is not a cure-all. Drug suppliers will eventually adapt, but Mr. Portman’s legislation is a no-brainer. It will save lives. It would be unconscionable not to pass it.
Follow @BladeOpinion on Twitter.
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.