President Donald Trump unveiled aggressive policy proposals — including calling for the death penalty for high-level drug traffickers — to curb the opioid crisis to during his New Hampshire speech Monday, another step in the administration’s concerted effort to combat the widespread addiction.
“Whether you are a dealer or doctor or trafficker or a manufacturer, if you break the law, and illegally peddle these deadly poisons, we will find you, we will arrest you, and we will hold you accountable,” Trump said during the “Opioid: The Crisis Nextdoor” event in Manchester.
His policies telegraphed a particularly dismal fate for high-level traffickers involved in fentanyl-related drug distribution.
“If we don’t get tough on the drug dealers, we’re wasting our time…and that toughness includes the death penalty,” the president said.
Trump shrugged off “lighter” approaches from prior administrations claiming “this isn’t about nice anymore” and lambasting previously established “blue ribbon committees” as useless. Instead, the president pointed toward assertive efforts such as New Hampshire’s Operation Granite Shield, a local anti-drug sweep resulting in the arrest of 151 for drug smuggling-related crimes.
On Monday, advisor to the president and de-facto opioid surrogate Kellyanne Conway stressed the dangerous of fentanyl, and the impact should not go unnoticed.
“It’s about putting the right people behind bars who are trafficking,” Conway said during a press gaggle aboard Air Force 1.
New Hampshire is no stranger to the opioid epidemic; the state has seen nearly 600 deaths since 2014, far above the nationwide average. It is only bested by West Virginia, which has a 52% death rate due to opioid-related overdoses according to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Back in October, the administration declared the epidemic a national public health emergency (a notable rollback from their original plan to bill the crisis as a national emergency.) There, Trump called for Congress to include nearly $6 billion in funding in their upcoming 2018–2019 budget. Yet neither the House nor Senate have agreed on a proper spending bill, kicking the can down the road using continuing spending resolutions with no end in sight.
Trump also aired a grievance with foreign countries that he first announced prior to his inaugural sojourn to Asia: Keep foreign fentanyl out of the United States.
“I told China, don’t send it. And I told Mexico, don’t send it,” Trump said.
The Department of Justice has been instructed to target foreign online marketplaces that distribute fentanyl and other addictive drugs through backchannels into the U.S., Trump added. Yet it remains largely unclear if the president has drawn hard lines with Chinese President Xi.
Though the administration will not rely solely on strength. Trump rolled out a three-pronged approach: Ramped up prevention an education; accessible treatment and recovery; and enhanced drug interdiction, per advising from the president’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.
A softer approach including increased federal funding for development of non-addictive painkillers is “not that far off,” according to Trump. He also plans to direct the DOJ to litigate major pharmaceutical companies at a federal level. This, in turn, would add to effort to slash opioid prescription by a third by 2021 under the “Safer Prescribing Plan.”
According to the plan, states will be directed to monitor repeat recipients of opioids using an online database. Doubling down on education and prevention, The White House is set to launch a website and a television advertising campaign dedicated solely to crisis-related resources.
“It’s the least expensive thing we can do, where you scare them from ending up like the people in the commercials,” Trump said. “And will make them very, very bad commercials. You see what happens to the body, you see what happens to the mind.”
Overdose reducing drugs, heightened security on our southern border, and a proposed summit with major keyholders in the pharisaical industry are just a few more of the suggestions the White House has put forward for their “attack on all fronts” approach.
While the timing for actual policy rollouts is unclear, Trump maintains that his administration will remain aggressive to cure and treat addiction once and for all.
He continued: “Failure is not an option. Addiction is not our future.”