Portman to re-introduce bill aimed at U.S. mail shipment of drugs

The senator wants to require more information for packages entering the country.

In an attempt to fight drug trafficking, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, will re-introduce a bill designed to apply more stringent rules to foreign packages carried by the U.S. Postal Service.

“Right now, the U.S. Mail system does not require information about where a product comes from, what’s in the package and where it’s going,” Portman said Monday after meeting with Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer. “We believe that information alone will make a big difference for law enforcement.”

Portman’s visit to Dayton, one of the areas hardest-hit by the state’s drug epidemic, came a day after this newspaper reported on the very issue the senator hopes his bill, the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act, will address. Portman and Columbus area Rep. Pat Tiberi, a Republican, first introduced the bill last session without success.

»INVESTIGATION: Loophole lets Chinese opioids into state

This newspaper reported overseas drug traffickers are exploiting a gap in U.S. law that allows packages to enter the country through the U.S. Postal Service virtually unchecked. Portman said unlike UPS and FedEx, the Postal Service does not require electronic customs data for foreign packages.

“It’s more work for the Postal Service, but it’s necessary to save lives,” Portman said, adding he would support directing funds to the Postal Service to “make sure they have the resources to be able to get the information” his bill would require the agency obtain.

“We’re not asking them to do as much in terms of the law enforcement part as in terms of collecting information,” Portman said.

An independent agency, the Postal Service does not use taxpayer money for its operations. Under federal law, it can’t raise prices more than the rate of inflation without approval from the Postal Regulatory Commission.

»MORE: 5 recent southwest Ohio drug busts

Closing the loophole is supported by the group Americans for Securing All Packages, an organization funded in part by major players in the pharmaceutical and music industries — fields which suffer from counterfeits. The political action committees of at least five ASAP corporate members donated nearly $20,000 to Portman’s re-election campaign over the past two years, according to federal election records.

Portman met with Plummer for about 45-minutes behind closed doors Monday to discuss the drug epidemic. The sheriff, who is a Republican, said he support’s Portman’s legislation.

“It’s a cat and mouse game, we discover one way they’re doing business, they change it up, so this legislation will be a major tool in our tool box,” the sheriff said.

More reporting on Ohio’s drug epidemic:

» Stark number of ER visits show heroin's local grip

» Dayton tops list of drugged-out cities

» Coroner investigates 145 suspected overdose deaths

» What is fentanyl and how does it kill?

The Associated Press and Staff Writer Chris Stewart contributed reporting.

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