President Donald Trump noted a decline in drug prosecution as he spoke to reporters about the United States’ opioid “epidemic” Tuesday, attaching a criminal justice-related element to an issue in which a White House commission previously made mostly health-related recommendations.
“At the end of 2016, there were 23 percent fewer federal prosecutions than in 2011, so they looked at this scourge and they let it go by. We’re not letting it go by,” said Trump to reporters from his private club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he was receiving a briefing from Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price.
“The average sentence for a convicted federal drug offender decreased 20 percent from 2009 to 2016,” he added, noting he “promised to fight this battle during his campaign.”
Just over a week ago, the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made a series of recommendations on the topic focused on treatment to combat addiction and regulating prescriptions to prevent abuse. The panel also suggested Trump “declare a national emergency under either the Public Health Service Act or the Stafford Act.”
Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he was sending a group of federal prosecutors to a number of cities affected by rampant abuse to investigate drug crimes. The policy of Trump’s White House predecessor Barack Obama was to relax sentencing for nonviolent drug-related offenses.
Trump addressed the severity of the issue Tuesday, saying “nobody is safe” and encouraging a focus on preventative measures.
The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place,” said Trump. “If they don’t start, they won’t have a problem. If they do start, it’s awfully tough to get off.
“Maybe by talking to youth and telling them, ‘No good, really bad for you in every way,'” he continued. “But if they don’t start, it will never be a problem.”
Nationally, the rate of opioid deaths is on the rise — every day 62 Americans die of an opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). And the Garden State, like many states across the country, has been hit particularly hard. A study released yesterday reports that the New Jersey’s opioid death rate is actually understated.
The University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy examined death certificates and found that nationally, opioid-…