Government affairs

Legislative Updates

Senate committee holds hearing on international opioid shipments report

The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations held a hearing today to discuss a recent report released by subcommittee staff titled, “Combatting the Opioid Crisis: Exploiting Vulnerabilities in International Mail.” The report addresses the ongoing problem of opioid overdoses across the country, the shipments of such drugs into the country, and the means to fight both.

The hearing primarily addressed the influx of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid many times stronger than heroin that they claim is often shipped by mail into the states from China. Subcommittee Chairman, Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), led the hearing and frequently stressed the need for advanced electronic data (AED) to be made universal across all inbound international packages to the U.S. He and other senators suggested his bill, the STOP Act of 2017 (S.372), is necessary to properly address this problem.

The STOP Act would amend a previous act to ensure such packages arriving in the United States through the mail would be subject to review by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and would require the advanced electronic tracking of all packages and large envelopes mailed to the United States.

While the intent of the bill may be to prevent harmful and potentially lethal drugs from entering the country, NALC opposes the bill in its current form as the requirements severely undermine USPS by placing an additional financial hardship on the agency.

Ranking Member Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) made sure to note that while AED is useful, the lack of across-the-board implementation is not the only contributing factor to this crisis. Symptoms such as problems inherent to the US public and private healthcare systems, the insatiable U.S. demand for drugs, and the lack of adequate postal reform all add to the problem.

Officials across the State Department, the USPS, and DOJ all agreed that 100 percent AED implementation for inbound international packages would be ideal, but stressed that many countries do not have the capacity or infrastructure to comply with the technological demands of such a requirement. They argued that the global postal system is simply incapable of adapting to an electronic shipping data system as advanced as our own, though they are in the process of updating as quickly as they can with the help of the Universal Postal Union (UPU), the United Nations specialized agency for the postal sector, with a goal of exchanging item-level data across all UPU by the end of 2020.

All witnesses and many senators highlighted not only the need for comprehensive postal reform if any substantial steps to combating the influx drugs into the country, but also the need for Postal Governors as the Board of Governors is currently vacant except for the Postmaster General and her Deputy General. NALC supports both a strong bipartisan Board of Governors and comprehensive postal reform.

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