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Will Trump Use Opioid Deaths to Justify Marijuana Crackdown?

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Will Trump Use Opioid Deaths to Justify Marijuana Crackdown?

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I was listening to Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address when he made the following comment about drugs:

These reforms will also support our response to the terrible crisis of opioid and drug addiction. Never before has it been like it is now. It is terrible. We have to do something about it. In 2016, we lost 64,000 Americans to drug overdoses — 174 deaths per day; 7 per hour. We must get much tougher on drug dealers and pushers if we are going to succeed in stopping this scourge.

How much do “drug dealers and pushers” – a redundancy, by the way – have to do with the 64,000 Americans we lost to drug overdoses in 2016?

NIDA Prescription Opioid Deaths
NIDA Prescription Opioid Deaths

Around 17,000 of the overdose deaths are from prescribed opioids. Then consider that many of the heroin and fentanyl overdoses happen because someone got addicted to their prescribed opioids and then were cut off and turned to street drugs. Others are folks who started by swiping or being given someone else’s prescribed opioids.

The “drug dealers and pushers” at the root of this overdose crisis are greedy pharmaceutical companies, enabled by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

These “Drug Dealers and Pushers” Have Lobbyists, Though

At the DEA, there is an Office of Diversion Control. One of its functions is to set the production quotas for Schedule II drugs, like the synthetic opioids.

Oxycodone’s (Purdue Pharma’s Oxycontin) first quota was set at 8.3 tons back in 1997. When that quota ballooned to 98,000 kilograms of oxycodone approved by 2011, Slate asked DEA Supervisory Special Agent Gary Boggs why the uptick in drug abuse didn’t call for a reduction in the quota?

Boggs’ answer was that Big Pharma needed to keep making enough pills for the abusers so pain patients could have whatever remained!

“What you have to understand,” Boggs replied, “is that you do have legitimate patients and they’re fishing from the same pond that the illegitimate patients are fishing from, so you have to be cautious not to restrict the quota to the point that when the legitimate parties go to the pool, all the fish haven’t been taken out by the illegitimate parties.”

DEA Opioid Quotas 1993-2015
DEA Opioid Quotas 1993-2015

(Can you even imagine telling the federal government you must be approved to grow 90,000 cannabis plants so that after all the potheads get their weed, there will still be enough medical marijuana to supply the cancer patients?)

By 2013, Big Pharma was allowed to push out over 150,000 kilograms of oxycodone.

That quota has been reduced since then, with 2018’s approved quota of 95,962 kilograms finally dropping below the 2011 quota.

But don’t expect the Trump Administration to seriously crack down the pharmaceutical “drug dealers and pushers” who made $62 million in campaign contributions and spent $277 million on lobbying Congress in 2016.

Cracking Down on the “Merchants of Addiction”

(except pharma, booze, cigs, gambling, video games, fast food, and other campaign contributors)

The deaths from these legally-pushed drugs are how Trump will justify the crack down he wants to begin on illegally-pushed drugs, including marijuana.

Notice how Trump said, “opioid and drug addiction.” That was a scripted remark intended to broaden the focus beyond just the pharmaceuticals.

Trump’s rhetoric is part of a trend I’m following. On numerous occasions, Trump and the drug warriors supporting him have purposefully used the problem of opioid deaths to paint a bigger picture of a problem with all drugs.

In January, Trump made sure to conflate opioids with other drugs as he also added his fixation on a southern border wall to the issue:

Whether it’s the opioids, whether it’s drugs as you hear in the traditional sense, much comes through the southern border.

In an earlier January appearance, Trump made the same reference to “traditional (non-pharmaceutical) drugs”:

It’s never been like this. We’ve never had a problem with drugs like we do – whether it’s opioid or drugs in the traditional sense, it’s never been like it is.

With the deaths from drug overdoses being extended to the “traditional drugs,” it’s then Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions who makes the explicit connection to marijuana by citing the gateway drug theory:

And you talk to police chiefs, consistently they say much of the addiction starts with marijuana.

Jeff Sessions’ numerous invocations of the gateway drug theory are then echoed by Congressman Pete Sessions, chair of the House Rules Committee:

And there’s massive amounts of evidence that suggests that our young people, many of them that get into heroin, methamphetamines, and a lot of other things, begin not only with marijuana, but by addiction.

Congressman Sessions chairs the powerful committee that has oversight on the budget and relations with the executive branch. He thinks it’s insane that we’re not cracking down on the legalized marijuana industry (his “merchants of addiction,” not the pharmaceutical companies):

Marijuana is an addictive product and the merchants of addiction make it that way. They make it for addiction. The make it to where our people, our young people, become addicted to marijuana and keep going.

Congressman Sessions recently blocked a vote in his committee on the Rohrabacher amendment, the budgetary rider that has kept federal law enforcement at bay in medical marijuana states. He believes that allowing for legalized marijuana (his “garbage,” not the pharmaceutical companies) is leading kids down the path of addiction to heroin:

We have an opioid addiction problem. We have 60,000 opioid-addicted children born in this country and two-thirds of the moms will be dead in two years, and what do we do? We go and politically push this garbage – illegal drugs – garbage!

And Attorney General Sessions, speaking to the DEA last week, knows that not cracking down on the “merchants of addiction” is what got us into this mess in the first place:

Resources have not been what we need them to be. What has been the result of this over a period of years? We saw drug purity up, availability of drugs up, and drug prices down. Three bad trends in this country. We saw addiction up and death up to a degree this nation has never seen before.

So, Trump and his allies have identified the problem of deaths from “opioids and traditional drugs” and come up with a scapegoat to blame in “the merchants of addiction.” They’ve identified a solution in cracking down on “drug dealers and pushers,” particularly on the southern border.

The Crackdown is Only a Question of “How Much?”

Add to this mix the cozy relationship Trump has fostered with Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines whose drug crackdown consists of allowing police and vigilantes to murder over 12,000 drug dealers and users on the streets with impunity.

From the New York Times in May:

President Trump praised President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines in a phone call last month for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem” in the island nation where the government has sanctioned gunning down suspects in the streets.

By October, Trump was establishing the foundation of blame on users of “traditional drugs” for the evils of terrorists and criminals:

Every American should know that if they purchase illegal drugs, they are helping to finance some of the most violent, cruel, and ruthless organizations anywhere in the world.

Then in January, Trump begins to explain that while we’re having a big drug problem in America, other countries (like, say, the Philippines) don’t share our problem because they are “harsh” on drugs:

Not so difficult for some, believe it or not. They take it very seriously. They’re very harsh. Those are the ones that have much less difficulty.

The next week, Trump reiterates the idea that being tough on “traditional drugs” is something that works, seemingly exasperated that he can’t just have cops kill dealers like Duterte does.

Some areas take care of it through very, very tough measures. We don’t. We’re not prepared to do that – I guess, they say – as a country.

“I guess, they say” sounds to me like Trump is wholly convinced it is the right thing to do, but has been counseled by staff or cabinet members that vigilante slayings and police executions wouldn’t be popular here.

But getting tougher, in some measure, is exactly what Trump would like to see happen:

And frankly, the tougher we get, the better it’s going to be, the faster it’s going to go away.

Predicting how much Trump can accomplish in cracking down on the “traditional drugs” is fraught with confounding variables (Mueller, for instance). It does seem clear, however, that Trump and his Attorney General believe cracking down is the right thing to do and see it as a moral imperative.

We must confront the culture of drug abuse head-on, to reduce the demand for dangerous narcotics.

I do think that this whole country need to not be so lacks-a-daisical [sic] about drugs.


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7 Comments

John Thomas

From the writing:

“The deaths from these legally-pushed drugs are how Trump will justify the crack down he wants to begin on illegally-pushed drugs, including marijuana.”

That’s an incredible stretch, unsupported by any documentation or facts. – Your listing of Trump’s various quotes about drugs shows just the opposite of what you predict.

In all of these quotes, Trump never mentions marijuana. In fact, as far as I’ve seen, he’s NEVER uttered the word “marijuana” since he took office.

If we were to accept your [I-told-you-so] premise, we would also have to accept the idea that Trump has been planning a huge sneak attack on marijuana consumers ever since he took office.

All the evidence points to the contrary. – With even the majority of Republicans now wanting to end marijuana prohibition, there is no political reason for an attack on the legal states. – Sessions was not chosen as AG for his marijuana views, and they are not supported by Trump or any significant force. – Sessions was simply rewarded for his early support of Trump. And after recusing himself from the FBI investigations, he has done nothing but provoke Trump’s ire – almost to the point of getting fired.

Besides, when has Trump ever been able to control his motor mouth [fingers]? – If marijuana were on his mind at all, we would have a thousands tweets about it by now.

Willful deliberate blindness to massive irrefutable evidence is a trait universally shared by prohibitionist politicians, and by their apologists and collaborators such as “John Thomas.” So he thinks Atty Genl Jeff Sessions, the anti-marijuana fanatic, is about to get fired? Trump has no qualms about firing people–it’s how he gets his sadistic kicks, and made himself a videoculture Godzilla. OK, Mr. “thomas,” if Jeff Sessions is fired, it WON’T be for his anti-marijuana crusade.
As I read his desperate denial of the plain meaning of Trump’s actual repeated statements, illiterate and incoherent as they are, I noticed that “john thomas” simply ignores the vintage reefer madness rhetoric of Congressman Pete Sessions—another Republican troglodyte. If cannabis were entirely out of the equation, there simply is no acceptable rationale which could conceivably exonerate or excuse Trump’s praise of the ghoulish Dutarte’s practice of mass summary execution and assassination of suspected drug dealers AND USERS.

Until Dutarte and Trump came along, it was at least conceded by the prohibitionists that addicts were in need of treatment. Now they’re seen as convenient recipients for the “sport” of human target practice. Just makes you proud to be a Republican who loves himself his orange Fuehrer! This “john thomas'” blind faith in Donald reminds me of stories about prisoners in the Soviet Gulag who would insist that if Comrade Stalin only knew what was going on, he’d naturally put a stop to all the injustices and cruelty.

What political reason is there to attack the legal states? All the reason Trump and the corrupt Republican Congress need is spelled out if you just read what Russ has written. Their interest is to shield the Big Pharma profits; which has two elements: 1. Suppress the medical cannabis alternatives to expensive proprietary and synthetic medications (which goes far beyond just cannabinoid alternatives to opioids.) 2. Provide a scapegoat to divert attention from the grotesque profiteering and overproduction which DEA HAS CONNIVED AT. Furthermore, marijuana charges have provided the majority of narcotics convictions which have driven the immensely profitable private prison industry—another Republican corporate clientele, and one of the very first to win reversal of tentative Obama policies to subdue its business model of state-licensed human trafficking. There’s your political motivation for this atavistic endorsement of the government’s war on the American people.

Most bizarrely, after arguing that Trump’s vicious, ignorant rantings just didn’t apply to marijuana, despite their context and contents, because none of those cited here specifically mentioned marijuana–assertively arguing, by inference, that Trump was carefully and calculatedly EXCLUDING marijuana from his messages–the commenter reverses field and jokes that silly old Trump just can’t control himself and blurts out anything “on his mind.” As if the uncontrollable impulse to publish incessant outbursts of insults, slurs, falsehoods, and nonsense is a harmless and almost endearing attribute for this mighty emperor to exhibit. If “john thomas” is just deluded, it would be a kindness to cut off his marijuana supply until he reconnects to the planet and to humanity; if “john thomas” is a paid troll, he’s riding for a karmic fall.

John Thomas

@Oliver

Since you faded in and out of coherency, I debated whether to respond to you. – I’ll just take one of your many ‘gems.’

“If cannabis were entirely out of the equation, there simply is no acceptable rationale which could conceivably exonerate or excuse Trump’s praise of the ghoulish Dutarte’s practice of mass summary execution and assassination of suspected drug dealers AND USERS.”

Such histrionics. – You kind of sound like you want disasters to happen, like end-of-the-world junkie. There is no other word to describe the scary mountain you have built from the mole hill of Trump’s barking, other than paranoia.

Here’s something to steady you up. — Polls show public support for totally ending the fraudulent marijuana prohibition is at an overwhelming 64 percent! 75 percent want to leave it up to the states, and more than 90 percent approve of medical marijuana.

Because of this incredible and still growing support, we now have NINE Free states and D. C. – They are never going back to the insane witch-hunt. It will always be legal in there to possess, consume and grow small personal amounts.

The Free States will serve as a bulwark in helping to end the prohibition in the rest of the country. – We passed the tipping point when California began their legal, recreational market.

It’s clear we are ending marijuana prohibition, just as we ended alcohol prohibition. – The massive public demand will not accept any reversal of history.

To clarify what I said about Trump’s comments regrading Dutarte. It doesn’t matter whether either of those sociopaths did or did not mean to include marijuana in the category of “drugs” while they incite and so obscenely and publicly enjoy and praise the bloodthirsty assassination of thousands and thousands of civilians. I think it’s obvious that narco-fanatics from Anslinger on down have always grouped marijuana with the other demonized drugs. EVEN UNDER OBAMA they would not remove Marijuana from Schedule 1! But that’s beside the point. Even if these two madmen had specifically excepted cannabis (which they did NOT do) and said weed was OK, and that they just wanted to butcher the users and dealers who smoked opium, injected heroin, or sniffed stimulants—even then, that should never, never, never have been an acceptable sentiment expressed by a head of state in the 21st century. It would have been frowned on the 12th century! And when the supposed President of the United States of America spews such repulsive remarks, exceeding by orders of magnitude all the vulgarity of the previous incumbents put together, and nevertheless the Republican Party rallies around and proceeds imperturbably about its business of looting the economy, corrupting the government, and grinding the faces of the poor . . . then you have a spectacle of moral leprosy and political syphilis rivalling the reign of the depraved and degenerate Roman Emperor Caligula. Yes, the Republicans are such a Christian, family-values tribe of thugs, ain’t they?

@Oliver — I have no disagreement with your second post. — Trump is a horrific person in many ways. — But that does not serve as any evidence he intends to try to re-ignite the war on marijuana consumers. — The only statements we have from him about marijuana are those he made in 2016, saying medical marijuana is okay and the states should decide about recreational marijuana.

Yes. It’s POSSIBLE he could be planning a sneak attack on the millions of marijuana consumers and give a direct slap in the face to more than 90 percent of all Americans who approve of, at least, medical marijuana. – But that’s highly unlikely, especially considering all Trump’s other problems.

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