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In Case You Missed it: 60 Minutes Highlights Flood of Foreign Fentanyl Entering the U.S. Through the Mail

This weekend, CBS News’ 60 Minutes examined how foreign synthetic opioids, including the incredibly potent fentanyl, continue to flow into the United States due to a loophole in the global postal system.

The segment features interviews with law enforcement, families affected by the epidemic, and Senator Rob Portman, who led last year’s passage of the bipartisan Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, which was designed to cut off the pipeline of drugs in the mail. International drug traffickers regularly take advantage of postal system’s lack of advance electronic data, or AED, which is required for shipments through private carriers and helps law enforcement screen and stop dangerous material. Although the STOP Act was enacted over six months ago to mandate AED on all foreign packages, including those delivered through the postal system, federal agencies have failed to meet the deadlines outlined under the law.

An excerpt from 60 minutes is below, and the full video can be viewed here.

Scott Pelley: Where did all this stuff come from?

U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman: It’s from China. It’s manufactured in China. These are all related to cases that involve the mail or the use of the postal system. So this, somebody  put this into a box, sealed it up and sent it through the postal system.

The United States Postal System has been, for many years, the most reliable way to smuggle drugs from China to the U.S.

Rob Portman: That has to stop. It should’ve stopped years ago.

Ohio Senator Rob Portman’s staff investigated the traffic.

Scott Pelley: What did your office’s investigation find?

Rob Portman: Shocking, what we found. Which was that people who were trafficking in fentanyl told us, if you send it through the post office, we guarantee delivery. If you send it through a private carrier, not so.

That’s because after 9/11, all private carriers like FedEx were required to give U.S. Customs advance descriptions and tracking of foreign packages. The Postal Service was allowed to delay because of the cost.

Rob Portman: They gave the post office some time and said you need to give us a report as to how you can also comply with this. That was 16 years ago, Scott.

Rob Portman: It’s primarily produced in laboratories in China and it’s primarily coming to the United States through the United States mail system. 

Portman sponsored a bill to force the Post Office to send advance notice of shipments from China. Last fall, the bill became law.

Rob Portman: We now have this legislation in place. They need to implement it quickly. They need to do everything possible to screen these packages coming in.

But the Postal Service was supposed to do that by the end of last year. It says China is not cooperating. About a third of the packages from China, shipped by the U.S. Postal Service still do not have advance content information.  

View more at CBS News