In 2016, law enforcement in Canada—the Canada Border Services Agency and RCMP—seized a kilogram package of carfentanil. The word spread quickly, especially after RCMP hosted a press release about carfentanil and other opioids entering Canada through the mail system. Like many US government officials, police blamed exploits in the mailing infrastructure. As a result, the Canadian government introduced a bill that allows CBSA to open small mail packages.
The Canada Border Services Agency is forced to let small packages slide through any safety-net implemented. For instance, with larger mail, a spokesperson explained that the CBSA targets packages from specific countries. However, even after applying a similar screening method to packages under 30 grams, agents lack the authority to open screened mail. If the new bill becomes a law, this would change.
In order to open packages that weigh less than 30 grams, officers or agents must receive permission from the sender or receiver. Sergeant Luc Chicoine of the RCMP explained that small mail packages caused a massive problem for the police. “Instead of sending a 1-kilogram package, they will send 1,000 envelopes of one gram,” the Sergeant explained. “There is a good chance that it will pass and that no one will detect it. For example, you can send a party card to someone’s name at home with a few grams of fentanyl. So it’s pretty easy.”
Following the CBSA and RCMP seizure of a kilogram carfentanil package, Canadian officials called for action. “I think this is serious enough that we need to make sure that we do prevent this from coming into our country,” Martin Schiavetta of the Calgary Police said. “We also want to ensure that we act upon this. We’re extremely concerned about this and it really takes an international collaboration to stop the importation of this.”
A collaboration with the United States ensued. US Senators Rob Portman, Ron Johnson, and Kelly Ayotte introduced a bill aimed at preventing USPS’s involvement in drug trafficking. They name the bill “the Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act.” Senator Portman campaigned against opioid overdoses and used the STOP Act as a platform for change. He explained how drug traffickers, mainly from China, used USPS due to several “loopholes” in the mailing system. The drug traffickers—usually darknet vendors or distributors who sold opioids—used the so-called “loopholes” for importing “synthetics” from China and India.
The bill explained the loophole technicalities; USPS lacked a pre-approved customs declaration requirement. In reality, a “loophole” never existed. It was simply a technique that the US did not employ. The customs pre-declaration would only have allowed USPS or Homeland Security to know when a package from China or any flagged country would arrive – prior to arrival. And in doing so, the screening process would require less effort.
Both Canada’s proposal and the US’s treated different issues within the postal system but both aimed at preventing the influx of opioids. Canada believed, in December 2016, that China held a stance of non-action and that the country avoided the drug altogether. This changed according to US DEA agents who worked with Chinese authorities on the carfentanil and similar synthetic opioid crackdown. Unsurprisingly, some drug users across the world—and especially in the US and Canada—still overdosed.
No matter the precautions taken, mail will come through. CBSA spokesman, Dominic McNeely, explained. “We can not open all the parcels that pass here. It’s impossible. It’s unthinkable.” Regardless, governments will continue in their efforts to stop or slow the usage of mail infrastructure in drug trafficking.