Last week, the California legislature approved a bill that would authorize “overdose prevention programs” in San Francisco where people can inject their own drugs in a safe, sanitary and supervised environment.
A couple of years ago at a motel in Columbus, a young woman shared a bag of heroin with her father. Both of them nodded off. Because she woke up and he did not, she was sentenced to three years in prison for involuntary manslaughter.
President Trump and the use of presidential pardons is all over the news. Earlier this week the President met with Kim Kardashian to discuss the case of Alice Marie Johnson, a grandmother who has spent more than 20 years behind bars on a drug charge.
President Trump last week signaled a dramatic turnaround in administration marijuana policy, telling Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner that the Justice Department would not go after state-legal marijuana in Colorado and that he would support moves to address the contradiction between legal marijuana states and federal pot prohibition.
So it was a tragedy but not a total surprise when three deaths were reported in Illinois from synthetic marijuana laced with an ingredient (possibly rat poison) that caused severe bleeding. Nationally, in 2015, says the Drug Policy Alliance, “poison control centers received just under 10,000 calls reporting adverse reactions to synthetic cannabinoids, and emergency rooms received tens of thousands of patients.”
In the first study, investigators from the University of Kentucky and Emory University assessed the relationship between medical and adult-use marijuana laws and opioid prescribing patterns among Medicaid enrollees nationwide. Enrollees included all Medicaid fee-for-service and managed care enrollees—a high-risk population for chronic pain, opioid use disorder, and opioid overdose.
The remarks came after she correctly emphasized the dangerous of fentanyl, noting that the synthetic opioid is far more deadly than heroin. Her suggestion that students should eat ice cream or French fries struck many as bizarre and seeming to completely misunderstand the nature of drug abuse.
Trump gave a rambling and incoherent speech to promote his opioid crisis initiatives, which included the absurd claim that he could end drug addiction by airing television commercials. “This is something that I have been very strongly in favor of,” Trump told the crowd at Manchester Community College in New Hampshire Monday afternoon. “Spending a lot of money on great commercials showing how bad it is.”
“Some countries have a very, very tough penalty — the ultimate penalty — and by the way, they have much less of a drug problem than we do,” Donald Trump said during a White House summit on opioid abuse last Thursday. The remark was consistent with reports of private conversations in which Trump has said drug dealers deserve the death penalty.
Who better to poke fun at than the cluelessly anti-marijuana Sessions—the man who claims “good people” don’t smoke pot, that marijuana is a gateway drug, and who once said he liked the local Ku Klux Klan boys until he found out they smoked weed?
“Trump has said he would love to have a law to execute all drug dealers here in America,” national political reporter Jonathan Swan writes. “[T]hough he’s privately admitted it would probably be impossible to get a law this harsh passed under the American system.”
The Trump administration released its proposed Fiscal Year 2019 budget Monday, and it looks like a return to last century’s failed law-and-order drug war policies. While paying lip service to the nation’s opioid crisis, the administration shows its priorities by asking for more money for Trump’s quixotic border wall than to actually address opioids.
The omens are not good. In a pair of speeches this week, the president and his attorney general made some very menacing comments about drug policy. While their last-century drug warrior rhetoric has not, for the most part, translated into regressive, repressive drug policy prescriptions—yet—it’s probably not safe to assume that will continue to be the case.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway wears a wide variety of hats in Donald Trump’s administration, one of the most visible of which is going on cable news to sing Trump’s praise and threaten journalists who don’t unconditionally agree. One of her lesser known but more important roles is heading up the administration’s strategy to combat the opioid crisis.