Trump declares opioid epidemic a national emergency: What it means

President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national emergency during a media event at his private golf club in New Jersey on Thursday.

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Two days after vowing to win the fight against the opioid epidemic, Trump was asked if he thinks the opioid crisis is an emergency and, if so, why he hasn’t declared it one yet.

“The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I’m saying officially right now: It is an emergency. It’s a national emergency,” he said at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. “We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot [of] effort, and a lot of money on the opioid crisis.”

This off-the-cuff remark is not enough to mobilize disaster relief money to regions dealing with the crisis. But Trump said the documents required to make his declaration official are forthcoming, describing the crisis as “a serious problem, the likes of which we have never had.”

“You know, when I was growing up they had the LSD and they had certain generations of drugs,” he continued. “There’s never been anything like what’s happened to this country over the last four or five years.”

A week earlier, the White House Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which the president established by executive order on March 29, had recommended that Trump declare a national emergency.

“Your declaration would empower your cabinet to take bold steps and would force Congress to focus on funding and empowering the Executive Branch even further to deal with this loss of life,” wrote the commission , which is headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. “It would also awaken every American to this simple fact: if this scourge has not found you or your family yet, without bold action by everyone, it soon will. You, Mr. President, are the only person who can bring this type of intensi­ty to the emergency and we believe you have the will to do so and to do so immediately.”

President Donald Trump shakes hands with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie during a meeting about opioid and drug abuse in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington on March 29, 2017. (Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

The National Emergencies Act of 1976 authorizes the president to declare a national emergency that will activate special powers granted by other federal statutes. The law does not provide any emergency authority of its own.

In this case, the commission advised Trump invoke the Public Health Service Act or the Robert T. Stafford…

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