State officials urge Congress to close mail loophole causing drug epidemic


State officials from Rhode Island, Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky testified before the House Energy & Commerce Committee Wednesday to urge Congress to close a loophole in the Global Postal System that is allowing deadly synthetic drugs to be shipped from abroad.

Kentucky Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet John Tilley asked Congress to pass the STOP ACT—which was introduced back in February—that will require all packages to have electronic security data that would allow law enforcement officials to screen and stop deadly material—like fentanyl (a drug 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine) and other synthetic opioids from coming into the U.S.

According to the bipartisan coalition, Americans for Securing All Packages (ASAP), every day over 1 million packages come to the U.S. through foreign posts without any electronic information, allowing drugs to be easily shipped without tracing it back to a specific location or person.

Virginia said in 2016 alone, the state saw a 175% increase in fentanyl related deaths. In 2013, Rhode Island said it had the highest rates of illicit drug use in the nation, and in 2015, it had the fifth highest rate of overdose deaths in the nation. Maryland said deaths related to fentanyl have increased from 29 in 2012 to 1,119 in 2016.

“[Drug dealers] are sending drugs through the domestic postal service in packages that are not required to provide the same electronic data that they would have to provide if they sent them through a private express carrier like FedEx (FDX), UPS (UPS) and DHL,” Tom Ridge, former Homeland Security secretary and Pennsylvania governor told FOX Business in April.

Ridge, who serves as a senior advisor to ASAP, said the biggest problem is that a majority of these drugs are being mailed directly from China.

“China is the major culprit. It’s open season there. Just send it through your postal service and chances are it will get through without detection—which is lethal,” Ridge added.

The STOP Act, or the Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention Act, would amend the Tariff Act of 1930 and ensure that all merchandise arriving through the mail would be subject to review by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Additionally, all mail must require advance electronic information.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service told FOX Business in April that they share the same goal of those 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.” USPS also said that they have already been enforcing new regulations set in place earlier this year by the Universal Postal Union (UPU) to enhance its ability to require foreign posts to send electronic data.