House Judiciary Committee Hearing Highlights Serious Dangers of Postal Opioid Trafficking Loophole

Washington, D.C. (January 30, 2020) – At a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the synthetic opioid fentanyl, experts and members of Congress warned of the serious and ongoing threats posed by illegal drugs shipped into the United States using the international postal service. Congress has the ability to combat these threats by enforcing a major law passed in October 2018 and designed specifically to stop drug traffickers from using the international postal system. However, over a year after Congress passed the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, the law remains unenforced.  

Among the witnesses at the committee hearing was Donald Holman, whose son Garrett died from an overdose in Lynchburg, Virginia, just eight days before his 21st birthday. Garrett was killed by U-47700, a synthetic opioid, ordered from abroad and delivered by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Powerful drugs like U-47700 can be deadly even in small amounts and are commonly manufactured internationally before they are shipped to countless homes across the U.S.

Admiral Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, warned of this ongoing issue, noting that “in 2016, the predominant cause of opioid deaths became synthetic opioids, including fentanyl and chemical analogs of fentanyl illegally manufactured and transported into our country either through international mail or smuggled across the border.”

The STOP Act requires the postal service to properly provide Customs and Border Protection with the advance electronic data (AED) needed to screen international packages for fentanyl and other dangerous materials. This basic information on packages is already required for international shipments sent through private carriers. While the USPS was required to have AED on 100 percent of packages from China and 70 percent of international packages overall by December 2018, over one year later these major deadlines have not yet been met and critical reports to Congress on compliance and progress are not public.

“While the STOP Act sits unenforced, fentanyl continues to play a larger and larger role in the ongoing opioid epidemic,” said Juliette Kayyem, senior advisor to Americans for Securing All Packages. “Americans are counting on Congress to exercise its oversight responsibilities and demand that federal agencies follow the law. Any efforts to fight the opioid epidemic cannot be successful if law enforcement lacks the tools needed to stop drugs from entering the country, and Congress has the power to make that happen.”