It’s time for President Trump to put all of his proposed policies to action now that he is in office. But what exactly are the drug policies of the Trump administration? Trump’s stance on drugs has changed over the years when it comes to legalization. In the 1980s and 90s, he was all for legalization and felt that it was the best option to win the nation’s war on drugs. Armed with a plan for legalized drug trade, he said that tax revenues should go towards education and awareness, and perhaps increase funding for addiction treatment. This was Trump’s way of winning the drug war back then. Currently, Donald Trump is against legalization because there isn’t enough regulation and policing.
Trump’s campaign tackled the scope of the nationwide drug problem as well as his own personal experiences pertaining to his brother and substance abuse. (Freddy Trump died in 1981 from alcoholism when he was only in his 40s.) Trump addressed the heroin epidemic in New England during his campaign to cater to voters with family members with drug abuse problems. While his campaign included a strong commitment to drug reform (even though his plan was not very clear at the time), the drug policies of the Trump Administration may not be reflecting his campaign promises.
Trump appears to have shifted from a seemingly sincere, compassionate stance for addiction to a rigid focus on regulation and drug enforcement laws. And the current drug policies and officials under the new administration are not conducive to his proposed policies from just a few months ago. Newly-elected Trump presented his then-stance on drugs and addiction treatment back in November:
“In his multi-faceted plan to address the current drug epidemic, Donald Trump places law enforcement at the forefront. He promises to secure our border by building a wall to keep out drug traffickers. Trump also promises to prosecute drug criminals, deporting cartel members and putting an end to sanctuary cities…Finally, Donald Trump plans to support the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). This will theoretically expand the use of mandated treatment in place of prison sentences and increase funding for prevention programs.”
Sounds somewhat empathetic, doesn’t it? Especially the last bit about the CARA. Unfortunately, Trump is also planning on repealing Obamacare. This overhaul could mean that millions of people will not be able to get the treatment that they need for addiction.
The Resurgent War on Drugs
Now Trump’s administration is all about revving up the war on drugs, 80s-style. His focus is on controlled reform through punitive measures. This includes enforcing federal marijuana laws and cracking down on pot use to coerced treatment and mass incarceration of all drug users (including medical marijuana patients). Is this really necessary? This means that anyone caught using drugs (including medical marijuana) will be locked up. Treatment will no longer be a priority. Instead, drug users will be treated like criminals.
Perhaps one of the most alarming recent developments was the news that the Office of Management and Budget had slashed the White House’s Office of National Drug Control and Policy (ONDCP). Advocates are hoping that Trump will not turn his back on the ONDCP, especially in the midst of a national opioid crisis. They are actively opposing the move and warn that this is not the time to make this cut.
Trump’s Drug Czar
Trump’s drug policies will be carried out by a “drug war extremist” of sorts. Trump plans to nominate GOP Rep. Tom Marino resign from Congress to become his drug czar. According to the Drug Policy Alliance:
“Marino, a former prosecutor with no background in health or treatment, supports a punitive, 1980’s style approach to drugs, including mass incarceration and coerced treatment, even for medical and non-medical marijuana. Drug Policy Action, the political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, gave him an “F” in their 2016 congressional voter guide.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is another person who strongly believes in a 1980s kind of war of drugs. He absolutely loathes all drugs, especially marijuana. He believes that decent people do not smoke marijuana. Sessions wants to go after all states where pot is legal. He claims that he wants to crack down on pot use, and prosecute more drug and gun cases.
Both Trump and Sessions are hell-bent on enforced federal weed laws ASAP. And if they succeed, this means that millions of medical marijuana patients and industry workers will be charged with federal crimes. Basically, they want anyone involved with the marijuana business thrown in jail.
Coerced Treatment and Prison
Is coerced treatment the answer to addiction and substance abuse problems? Some argue that it does, but it leaves one very important thing out: choice. Studies show that treatment is the most successful when it is voluntary and customized. Throwing a heroin addict in prison will not take away their addiction. Threatening someone to do something may work, but it does not get to the heart of the problem. Marino’s proposed “hospital/prison” is not a viable solution for addicts.
Addiction Treatment Vulnerable Under Trump Administration
The Obamacare repeal is bad news for the current drug crisis. Even though thousands of people die in from overdoses in this country every year, access to addiction treatment will be impacted. Basically, addicts would be stranded with no treatment available to them:
“Under Obamacare, private health plans in the individual market and public plans have to cover treatment for drug use disorders. The House bill begins peeling back these requirements, leaving potentially millions of people without the kind of coverage they might need.”
Under the repeal bill, more than 14 million people would be without health insurance. Who knows how many of them are addicts who need treatment to beat their substance abuse problems? Treatment facilities will not be able to afford to stay in business. This means that addicts will have to wait even longer to get accessible care. It is estimated that 2.8 million Americans with a substance abuse problem would lose insurance coverage. And this is all in the middle of a worsening opioid epidemic. Without financial support, addicts will remain untreated. Meanwhile, prisons and jails that house them will continue to be paid for by communities.