Cruz, Like Trump, Plans to Stop Heroin With a Wall

The Texas senator says "we will end this deluge of drugs" by securing the border.


ABC News

In a recent column, Ann Coulter says Donald Trump is the only presidential candidate who understands what it will take to stop "the drug overdose deaths sweeping the nation." The answer, of course, is to stop heroin from entering the country. What didn't anyone think of that before?

"Absolutely none [of the Republican candidates] but Trump would consider building a wall on our border," Coulter writes, overlooking Ted Cruz, who promises to "build a wall that works, triple border security, and put in place the surveillance and biometric tracking [required] to secure the border." During the Republican presidential debate on Saturday night, the Texas senator said fighting heroin abuse requires "securing the borders, because you have got Mexican cartels that are smuggling vast amounts of heroin into this country." Cruz insisted that "we know how to secure the borders," that "what is missing is the political will to do it." He promised that "as president, I will secure the border," and "we will end this deluge of drugs that is flowing over our southern border and that is killing Americans across this country."

The idea that the government could "end this deluge of drugs" if only it tried in earnest is the mark of an unreconstructed drug warrior who has not learned anything from a century of failure at that task. Bill Bennett, John F. Kelly, Donald Trump, Ann Coulter, and Ted Cruz may believe it, but no one who understands the economics of drug prohibition does. Posit a wall along our southern border, and you can be sure that drug traffickers will find ways over, under, around, and through it. If drugs can get into prisons, they can get into the United States as long as people here want them, no matter how much political will we summon or how much money we spend on border security.

In Coulter's view, pointing out that demand drives supply in the market for heroin (or anything else) amounts to "blam[ing] America first." If it weren't for those nasty Mexicans "dumping these poisons on our country," she says, the number of opioid-related deaths would not have reached a record high of more than 29,000 last year.

One reason to question that claim: Almost two-thirds of those deaths involved not heroin but prescription narcotics. Furthermore, the recent increase in heroin use was driven largely by people who started with painkillers and switched when a government crackdown made the pills harder and more expensive to obtain. That transition contributed to the increase in opioid-related deaths as people accustomed to reliable doses of legally produced narcotics started using a black-market substitute whose purity is inconsistent and whose margin of safety is smaller.

The more fundamental problem with Coulter and Cruz's supply-side approach is that it's impossible to foist drugs on people who do not like them. Heroin has never appealed to more than a tiny percentage of Americans; based on past-month use reported in last year's National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), marijuana is about 50 times as popular. If supply created demand, the heroin market would continue to grow until everyone in the U.S. (including Coulter and Cruz) was taking heroin every day. Instead it remains, as always, a minority taste, even among people who use illegal drugs.

There is nothing inevitably lethal about indulging that taste, and heroin-related deaths are not simply a function of heroin use. Between 2007 and 2014, according to the NSDUH, past-month heroin use increased by 170 percent. During that same period, according to the CDC, heroin-related deaths increased by 340 percent—twice as much. Rather than ask how heroin makes its way to people who like it, anyone interested in reducing the harm it does should ask why heroin users are more likely to die from drug poisoning than they used to be. Part of the answer seems to be the shift from prescription painkillers to a riskier replacement, which in turn highlights the ways in which prohibition makes heroin more dangerous than it would otherwise be—in particular, by making potency unpredictable.

It is also important to note that a large majority of so-called heroin overdoses (about two-thirds in 2013, according to the CDC's data) involve combinations of two or more drugs. Discouraging such dangerous mixing could reduce fatalities even without reducing heroin use. Likewise easier availability of the opioid antagonist naloxone, which reverses heroin's effects, and legal protections for people who report overdoses (a.k.a. Good Samaritan laws). Such harm reduction policies are more likely to make a dent in opioid-related deaths than the border wall Trump and Cruz want to build.

NEXT: Free-Market Education Radical Andrew J. Coulson, RIP

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  1. No OTC heroin, no peace.

    1. Only one candidate this election has ever proposed that:

      “We’re losing badly the war on drugs, You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars.”

      1. And now he wants to build a wall to keep out heroin. What’s your point?

        1. RTFA, Nikki

          It is Ann Coulter who says Trump’s proposed wall will keep heroin out.

          She quotes his campaign position on drugs:

          As Donald Trump has said, the best way to avoid becoming addicted to drugs is never to start.

  2. Typo alert:

    “*why* didn’t anyone think of that before” not “what”

    1. when?

      1. How didn’t anyone notice that before?

        1. Where?

  3. wow 29k, what a panepidemicspree.

    we could probably fence in every pool in America and then some with the price of a border wall.

    1. Or we could end the War on Drug Users, spend that money dismantling and re-purposing all the drug warrior infrastructure and hardware and save many, many more lives in the process. Nah, never mind. That’s just crazy talk.

      1. But then who would psychopathic bullies practice their torture on?

  4. Which all brings us back around to the age-old question of why would a politician support a policy that any rational, well-informed person knows will not work. There’s only three possibilities, which can be combined, of course. 1) The politician is not rational, at least not on this issue. 2) The politician is not well-informed on this issue. 3) The politician personally stands to gain from supporting the policy even though it will fail.

    Sadly, there is no reliable way to know what combination of these three possibilities is at play in the minds of Cruz or Trump. Though I suspect there is a heavy dose of #3 influencing both of them.

    1. I’m gonna say this every chance I get: 4) Walls work both directions. You haven’t been paying attention if you haven’t noticed the razor wire on our security fences is facing inward. The watchers – the TSA, the NSA, the FBI, – aren’t watching “them”.

      1. Sorry, it’s hard to pay attention to that stuff without my tinfoil hat on. I’ll be back in a minute.

    2. And on this issue, he clearly is also operating on 1) due to the loss of his half sister.

    3. It’s mostly #3. Every politician wants the support of the law enforcement juggernaut. And it costs them nothing except the votes of a few crackpot supporters of liberty.

  5. The great ‘war on alcohol ‘ worked so well ,let’s double down again on drugs. These people have no understanding of black markets. people are going to use drugs,pay for sex and gamble no matter what the nanny state does to stop them. Oh ,and Ann Coulter has a hinged jaw and eats puppies.

    1. The main reason this prohibition has lasted so much longer than the previous is that we managed to push most of the gang violence into other countries. Out of sight is out of mind. Who cares if tens of thousands of Mexicans die each year because of the War on Drug Users, right? What matters is that the user across the street is marginally inconvenienced when trying to get his next high.

      1. And Chicago.

        1. Um, and every American inner city but who cares about them.

      2. The other reason, perhaps even a stronger one, is that they divvied up the drugs into “legal” and “illegal”. So you have the “devil weed” illegal marijuana which Johnny is dangerously experimenting with and the “mommy’s little helper” legal benzos which Johnny’s mom is using to level out her mood.

        The prohibition on alcohol never made such distinctions and accordingly developed a critical mass of united opposition. Although no one should forget the fine print of the 21st Amendment, which represented a necessary placation of the prohibitionists.

        1. the fine print of the 21st Amendment

          Is that the “states are free to regulate the shit out of it” clause?

    2. Walls don’t keep drugs out of prisons. Why would anyone expect walls to keep them out of the country.
      What is needed is a way to take the exorbitant profit out of the drug business.
      How? Dunno.
      Maybe the free marketplace?

  6. Doesn’t most heroin come into North America through Vancouver via the Golden Triangle?

    1. I get my from “Fwaming Dwagon!”.

    2. Now we need two walls! Only Trump can pull this off!

    3. Damn Canadians,their the scourge of the earth.

  7. “Senator, voters need a plan to stop drugs. Our Frank Luntz GOP primary voter focus groups show promising returns on border fences in general.”

    “A wall against drugs? Sounds like another big government boondoggle to me.”

    Very promising returns, Senator. ‘Catches illegals and their drugs!'”

    “Fine. As I said, I’m a blank slate. Just mold my platform into one that wins me the nomination.”

    1. Hey look how well walls stopped the Mongols,and the Maginot line was genius.

  8. Where exactly is this deluge of drugs? This goddamned fuck of an election is making the personal oblivion of a junk habit look more and more attractive.

  9. Drone technology makes any border wall strategy to eliminate heroin smuggling irrelevant. Not that they care that when there is an opportunity to triple employment of enforcement personnel. I wonder what all of them will do when they abandon the idea that they can stop smuggling with increased enforcement? We all know that layoffs aren’t an option.

    1. And tunnels,cars ,trucks,ships,subs,planes. There as so many points of entry they an never stop the flow.I also believe these people are so against legal MJ because it will expose the lie that is the ‘war on drugs’

    2. I wonder what all of them will do when they abandon the idea that they can stop smuggling with increased enforcement?

      Like that will ever happen.

    3. We all know that layoffs aren’t an option.

      Cease hiring and shuffle them into other related jobs, retraining and paying to relocate them as needed. Workforce attrition will take care of the problem in a decade or so. It’s been done plenty of times before in the federal workforce. In fact, it gets done every time there’s a BRAC in the DOD. Granted its better than these people deserve, but it can be done, and for much less than it costs to continue the War on Drug Users.

  10. In Coulter’s view, pointing out that demand drives supply in the market for heroin (or anything else) amounts to “blam[ing] America first.”

    If you blame America then you’re not a true patriot. Just like those America-haters who talk shit about blow-back. They’re not true patriots. They should just leave the fucking country and go to Somalia.

    1. I blame assholes like her.for the violent black market.

      1. It’s always worth pointing out that markets exist where there is demand. the only thing that makes them “black” is the futile attempt by government to stamp them out.

  11. I’d like to see more research into cannabis as a replacement for lot of these addictive opioid painkillers. You know, the kind that keep killing people. Funny how the war on drugs not only creates the problem, it delays or prevents solutions.

  12. Look, we keep drugs and weapons out of maximum security prisons, right? We just need to scale that kind of security up to the national level.

    Seriously, George Carlin said it 40 years ago during the Cold War. If the Russians want to deploy a nuclear bomb in the United States, don’t put it on a missile. Put it inside a bale of marijuana.

  13. Every time I convince myself that Cruz is worth voting for and supporting, Reason makes sure I come back down to the shitty reality that is Election 2016.

    Of course, I knew he was still a drug warrior, even if he has shown (depending on whether it is an odd or even day of the month) to at least allow states leeway in terms of MJ. But then again, I don’t think the American people are ready to vote for someone who advocates the end of the WOD. Oh pot is cool, and enough people in both parties are coming around to it, that allowing states to handle it is a decent strategy. But not REAL drugs.

    So hate all the candidates. But, save some of your vitriol for your neighbors who want to crack down on those awful heroin users.

    1. This is something I wish more people would bear in mind. Comparing candidates to your own ideas isn’t that fruitful. You should compare them to the avg. person in their polity. Never mind comparing them to people in the rest of the world, who probably avg. out a lot worse.

    2. Pot is Kool…..except for the cognitive disabilities that are being discovered from long-term use.

      So, smoke a Camel and get lung cancer….
      Smoke junk and forget who you are, where you are, why you are.

      Perhaps both types of usage should be a dis-qualifier for medical insurance coverage?

  14. Most of the problems with illegal immigration that Trump railed against are caused by the drug war. End drug prohibition and the gangland warfare will end, just like it did with alcohol prohibition. So drug companies will have stupid super bowl ads, it’s a small price to pay for a big reduction in violent crime.

  15. Can we deport Ann Coulter please?

  16. Stop it the same way China stopped it: Summary Execution of drug-dealers.

    1. And no one in China ever used drugs again, right?

  17. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, nearly 88,000 people die annually from the narcotic drug alcohol and that statistic doesn’t include the collateral harm alcohol does: broken families, rape, robberies, and other crimes, lost jobs, injuries, and more. Why isn’t Ann Coulter, et al, calling for the prohibition of all ethanol manufacturing for personal consumption and prohibiting this evil drug, a scourge on Americans, from entering this country? Take the plank out of your own eye before trying to remove the mote out of the eye of your brother. No, I’m not really suggesting bringing back alcohol prohibition, but the drug prohibition is alcohol prohibition in spades. Over a trillion dollars spent on the so-called war on drugs since Nixon declared this war and for what?

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