US President Donald Trump unveiled a long-awaited plan to fight the nation’s opioid crisis, calling for stiffer penalties for drug dealers, including the death penalty.
At an event in Manchester, New Hampshire, Trump spelt out in new detail several steps he favors to combat opioid abuse, including the death penalty recommendation, new funding for other initiatives and stiffer sentencing laws for drug dealers, Reuters reports.
The US must “get tough” on opioids, the president said. “And that toughness includes the death penalty.”
Trump said that he was working with Congress to find US$6 billion in new funding for 2018 and 2019 to fight the opioid crisis. The plan will also seek to cut opioid prescriptions by a third over three years by changing federal programs, he said.
Addiction to opioids – mainly prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl – is a growing US problem, especially in rural areas. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 42,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2016.
In October, Trump declared the crisis a public health emergency, but without providing more money. Some critics, including Democratic lawmakers, said then that the declaration was meaningless without additional funds.
In Manchester, Trump said he wanted to give first responders access to life-saving drugs that can reverse overdoses.
He said the nasal spray Narcan, which can block opioid effects in overdoses, would be provided free to US schools.
He also said his plan would crack down on international and domestic illicit drug supply chains.
Part of that would include requiring electronic data for 90 percent of international mail shipments with goods, he said.
Trump said the US would “engage with China and expand cooperation with Mexico to reduce supplies of heroin, other illicit opioids, and precursor chemicals.”
The Justice Department will target negligent physicians and pharmacies, he said, adding that he was considering litigation against drug companies implicated in the opioid crisis.
“We will continue to aggressively prosecute drug traffickers and we will use federal law to seek the death penalty wherever appropriate,” US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. The death penalty is allowed in 31 states.
Ohio Democratic Representative Tim Ryan, in a statement, said that he is “disappointed that President Trump felt the need to … encourage prosecutors to seek the death penalty against drug dealers. I am all for punishing drug dealers, but I’m not for pushing the death penalty.”
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