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Bill in Final Stages of Legislative Process Would Impact Mail Shipments to the United States

More than 72,000 Americans died of drug addiction in 2017 and addiction continues to take the lives of Americans of all ages, economic status and backgrounds. Both chambers of Congress have now passed a legislative package that seeks to deal with this crisis, although enactment cannot occur until relatively minor differences between the House and Senate versions are ironed out and the final version of the legislation is signed into law by the president.

The SUPPORT Act contains provisions related to coverage of addiction treatment under Medicaid, which covers impoverished and disabled Americans, and Medicare, which covers older Americans. Included within that legislation is the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, which is designed to help prevent the shipment of synthetic opioids into the United States through the international mail system.

Originally introduced by Sen. Rob Portman (Republican-Ohio) and Rep. Pat Tiberi (Republican-Ohio), the STOP Act focuses on the importation of fentanyl and similar synthetic opioids originally prescribed for certain medical purposes but now frequently sold as a replacement for illegal heroin. Illegal fentanyl test reports in Ohio increased from 56 in 2010 to 4,009 in 2015, with a 196 percent jump from 2014 to 2015 alone. Fentanyl addiction has now spread to many other states as well, and much of the imported fentanyl is believed to be entering the country as inbound express mail shipments (inbound EMS) from mainland China.

The STOP Act would require inbound EMS to be screened for information to be forwarded from the U.S. Postal Service to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Specifically, the Postal Service would be required to arrange by 31 December 2018 for the transmission of certain information to CBP covering not less than 70 percent of the aggregate number of mail shipments, including all mail shipments from mainland China. If this deadline is not met, the U.S. comptroller general would be required prepare a report by 30 June 2019 assessing the reasons for the failure and identifying recommendations to improve the collection of the required information by the Postal Service.

The STOP Act would also establish additional customs fees to be charged for inbound EMS and specifies that it will ensure that all costs associated with complying with the legislation are charged directly to foreign shippers or foreign postal operators. In addition to providing for increased mandatory advance electronic information submissions, the STOP Act would enable the United States to provide technical assistance, equipment, technology and training to enhance the capacity of foreign postal operators. Moreover, the legislation would instruct U.S. government agencies to increase co-ordination to collaborate to identify and develop technology for the detection of illicit fentanyl, other synthetic opioids, and other narcotics and psychoactive substances entering the United States by mail. Regulations necessary to implement the STOP Act provisions would have to be adopted within a year of enactment.

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