By: The Washington Post
Like all drug scourges, the fentanyl epidemic that claims so many lives on a daily basis is a matter of supply and demand. The demand, alas, is made in America. The supply, by contrast, is overwhelmingly imported, with a key source being China, where a poorly regulated cottage industry makes the stuff, takes orders over the Internet and ships it via international mail to the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Increased prevention and treatment efforts can curb demand; but it’s going to take more enforcement to disrupt the supply chain. That’s much easier said than done, and would be even if China’s regulatory system were not fragmented and corrupt. Still, authorities on the U.S. side could benefit from a more sophisticated set of tools, which brings us to the good news from Capitol Hill. Yes, good news: Bipartisan legislation that is designed to plug a legal loophole that fentanyl traffickers have exploited for too long is moving toward passage.
A 2002 federal law requires private shippers such as UPS and FedEx to obtain advanced electronic data, or AED, including the names and addresses of senders and recipients on packages, plus details about the parcels’ contents. This facilitates screening and identification, ultimately deterring drug suppliers abroad. But the U.S. Postal Service, which receives 340 million packages from abroad annually, is still exempt. The reasons for this had to do with the costs of compliance for the financially troubled Postal Service, and the potential for conflict with other nations’ postal systems. As of 2017, the United States had persuaded counterparts abroad to supply AED on more than 40 percent of mail entering the United States, but that mostly reflected enhanced cooperation from Europe and Canada, not China.