No mistaking the importance of addressing the nation’s opioid epidemic

In light of the depths of our nation’s opioid epidemic and overall rate of drug abuse, it is clear that longstanding and effective solutions to promote recovery will be needed. At the state level, thankfully, numerous ideas have been put forward: everything from establishing new taskforces to examine the problem, to acquiring federal grants to combat the crisis, to even direct funding from state leaders, like Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey, who has committed $200 million, along with a similar plan by Gov. Rick Scott in Florida.

While each of these initiatives are all positive, the difficulty that we face – with more than 20 million Americans and their families suffering from an addiction of some type – will necessitate much broader action. In short, the patchwork efforts commenced by the states must be supplemented by judicious solutions passed by Congress and signed by the president.

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The opportunity to achieve this extensive measure of relief, which I wrote about a year ago, hinges on advancing the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act, known as the STOP Act. This new law would establish a critical cog in our nation’s security processes by helping to prevent harmful items, like opioids and other illicit drugs, from entering into the country. In effect, it would help cut out the supply of majorly abusive substances in our cities and towns, helping to prevent distribution before it starts.

The key mechanism to help make these laws effective is to expand requirements for shippers from outside the United States, when using the U.S. Postal Service, to provide electronic data detailing the contents of incoming packages with our federal authorities. Instituting this would be a necessary and long-overdue step in fashioning consistencies across the international shipping world, and bring USPS up to code with private carriers, who must submit advance security data through the Air Cargo Advance Screening system.

While this sensible solution continues to be considered, it has also regrettably provoked some opposition from within the postal industry. These unfounded challenges stand in contrast to numerous key facts about how the STOP Act would actually work.

First, the bill would not impose significant costs and penalties on the Postal Service. Instead, it would give USPS the ability to charge all costs and fees to foreign postal services, international shippers, or final the recipients in the U.S., which would fall in line with our nation’s industry standards. The law would also only apply to packages and flats, leaving international letter mail flow fully unimpeded.

Further, the USPS would not be deemed liable for the contents of foreign packages, but instead responsible for complying with procedures set up by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), which is another common practice for U.S. delivery companies. Thus any violations would not create monetary penalties for the Postal Service, as the foreign postal operators would be required to make necessary modifications or choose to withhold packages from crossing our borders.

For the fees associated with CBP processes, the State Department would become fully responsible for incorporating these rates within any deals made within the international mailing body, the Universal Postal Union (UPU). Properly accounting for these in negotiations with foreign groups will ultimately allow the USPS to appropriately pass along federal security costs to other countries’ postal operators and their recipients.

Changing the status quo to achieving equity with these charges is critical considering how the USPS continues to suffer significant financial losses as a result of delivering international items. In fact, financial data reported by the Postal Service to its federal regulator, reveals that the quasi-federal entity has lost $315 million in fulfilling foreign shipments and mailings in the last three years.

Allowing these losses to persist while also leaving foreign merchants off the hook for the costs of securely reviewing package data would be an unacceptable added burden for American taxpayers.

For too long shippers from outside the U.S. have been excessively negligent in permitting hazardous and addictive substances entering the country. Reaching American consumers should be a privilege, not a right, for these foreign senders. We need to formalize the STOP Act now to ensure they are paying their fair share for keeping our communities safe.

George Landrith is the president and CEO of Frontiers of Freedom, a public policy think tank devoted to promoting a strong national defense, free markets, individual liberty and constitutionally limited government.