President Trump and the First Lady traveled to New Hampshire Monday to unveil the Administration’s new plan to combat opioid addiction. The state of New Hampshire is significant in terms of the opioid epidemic as well as the upcoming presidential primary in 2020.
Key elements of the new plan include:
- Education and advertising
- Law enforcement and interdiction
- Government funding for medical treatment
- Helping recovering addicts find jobs
“The only way to solve the drug problem is through toughness,” said Trump during a speech in Pennsylvania. “When you catch a drug dealer…you gotta put him away for a long time.”
Trump praised China’s use of the death penalty on drug dealers and argued that a murderer in the US can receive the death penalty for killing one person, but a drug dealer, who could contribute to the death of thousands, will spend little time in jail. “A drug dealer will kill 2,000, 3,000, 5,000 people during the course of his or her life,” said Trump. “So you can kill thousands of people and go to jail for 30 days.”
Officials made it clear the death penalty would apply only to traffickers who bring large quantities of drugs into the country (particularly fentanyl), not to people who grow pot in their backyards.
Trump also said the DOJ is looking “very seriously” into suing major opioid manufacturers – many of which have already been sued by cities and states.
Trump’s speech on Monday was more of a message to prosecutors to be tougher on drug dealers, at it did not specifically call for legislation to broaden the use of the death penalty for federal drug crimes.
Some states already have laws that make it possible for drug dealers to receive the death penalty. In Florida, dealers linked to overdose deaths can be charged with first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison or death.
Trump has supported the idea of capital punishment for drug dealers in the past, but this is the first time the death penalty has been part of an official Administration plan. Trump’s talk of the death penalty prompted criticism from some treatment advocates, who insist the US cannot punish its way out of the epidemic.
The Trump Administration’s $6 billion plan also includes a federally-funded ad campaign aimed to prevent people from using opioids. The ad project is the first policy issue Trump has tackled with his wife, Melania, who is particularly interested in protecting children from drugs.
“The first lady wants to focus on the well-being of children with ads that lay out you are a somebody, not a statistic, don’t start with drugs, and educate them,” said one official. “The President is more shock the conscience. He wants to shock people into not using it.”
According to CDC estimates, around 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016. More than 40,000 of those deaths have been attributed to opioids.
In February, Congress passed a budget deal including $6 billion to address the opioid epidemic.
Editor’s note: In earlier work, I’ve proposed that drug dealers who push drugs to children should get the death penalty. Can’t say I’m opposed to major traffickers subject to the same penalties.
Addictive drugs have a “hyperlinked” supply-demand curve the supply creates the demand and the addiction is the most intense demand possible. Once you are addicted, you no longer have choices.