Donald Trump

Trump Wants Us 'To Get Really, Really Tough, Really Mean with the Drug Pushers'

Doubling down on a drug war that has failed for 40 years.



What's the best way to address the national problem of opioid abuse and overdose deaths? "My take," President Donald Trump declared in Ohio yesterday, "is you have to get really, really tough, really mean with the drug pushers and the drug dealers. We can do all the blue ribbon committees we want—[applause]—we have to get a lot tougher than we are."

The president's dismissal of blue ribbon commissions is somewhat perplexing, since he ordered that one be created just last March—the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. In any case, the president is evidently eager to rev up the war on drugs.

What might the president mean by getting really tough on drug pushers? One clue might be his phone call to Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte last April. "I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem," Trump said. "Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that."

Duterte is indeed doing an "unbelievable job," according to Human Rights Watch. The group estimates that that Duterte's drug war has killed more than 12,000 drug suspects so far.

As big a blustering blowhard as our president is, I trust that he is not actually contemplating Duterte-style extrajudicial killings when he says "we have to get a lot tougher than we are." Nevertheless, it is clear that the president has learned nothing from the failures of the war on drugs. Over the past four decades, the government has spent more than trillion dollars, locked up millions of Americans, and undermined our civil liberties, especially our Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizure, to stop the drug trade. Despite all the resources wasted and lives lost, the prices of illicit drugs have generally declined.

Prohibitionists claim that the drug war has reduced drug-related crime, decreased drug-related disease and overdose, and disrupted and dismantled organized criminal enterprises. But in a paper last year for the Cato Institute, George Mason University economists Christopher Coyne and Abigail Hall show that "prohibition is not only ineffective, but counterproductive, at achieving the goals of policymakers both domestically and abroad. Given the insights from economics and the available data, we find that the domestic War on Drugs has contributed to an increase in drug overdoses and fostered and sustained the creation of powerful drug cartels."

My Reason colleague Jacob Sullum concurs: "The government has contributed to [opioid] deaths in several ways. It created a black market in which drug users do not know what they are getting, encouraged traffickers to move toward increasingly compact and potent products (such as fentanyl), and reduced access to less dangerous alternatives (such as prescription painkillers)."

What will work? Needle exchanges will reduce the spread of diseases. Making the overdose-reversing drug naloxone more readily available will reduce overdoses. And the president's own drug addiction commission recommended the removal of federal barriers that limit access to any forms of FDA-approved medication-assisted treatment for drug dependent folks.

Beyond that: In a stark contrast to Duterte's bloody anti-drug campaign, one country has shown that the way to win the drug war is to end it. Portugal has decriminalized all drug use and focuses instead on treatment. The annual rate drug of overdose deaths in Portugal is now 1 per 170,000 citizens. The figure is 33 times higher in the U.S., at 1 per 5,100 Americans. President Trump ought to make a congratulatory call to Portugal instead, and ask about the "great job" that country is doing in handling its drug dependence problems.

NEXT: Do You Have a First Amendment Right to Flip Off the Cops?

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  1. So, I ask this a lot. But are non-governmental needle exchanges illegal in many states? Why is it always in the form of opening up a full clinic in some location? I see some that do the exchange machines, but it seems that full medical clinic style injection sites and needle exchanges have become the most common. Why is that?

    1. Employment security for bureaucrats and “therapists”. Government Almighty forbid that we just establish a free and open market for hypodermic needles!!!!

    2. In 1968 needles were OTC in drugstores, and a shoot-to-kill felony in the People’s State of California. Soon they were banned everywhere, and hepatitis epidemics spread outward from each jurisdiction passing the ban. This happened just in time for HIV-laced heroin to fire up an epidemic in Afghanistan that spread via cannon fodder to These States and That Soviet ???????????. So the advantages of prohibitionism include at least four major crashes and depressions, every hepatitis outbreak since the mid-sixties and this whole AIDS epidemic the Republican Party has managed to blame on gay happiness since our earliest meddling among Ottoman berserkers. Oh! Did I mention the Twin Tower attacks the day the Drug Czar put his hand on the Bauble?

      1. So you just rolled together several loony-toon conspiracies into one big ol’ honkin’ global conspiracy? Seems legit…

        1. Keep in mind that Hank is clearly a raving insane delusional schizophrenic.

      2. Sadly this isn’t the dumbest thing I’ve read on this site.

  2. Donald Trump wants a lot of things.

    1. Most of which can, apparently, be expressed in monosyllables.

      1. Honestly, I like that about him. There can be value to flowery language, but it can often get obtuse to the point of only obscuring what is being discussed. I wish I liked more of what he was actually saying, but I do like relatively direct speech in politics.

        1. Monosyllable does not necessarily mean direct.

          1. True, and he has the problem of basically never saying anything that he will stand by at a later point. He sort of just makes it all up at any given moment it seems.

            I only defend simple speech, not necessarily his usage of it.

            1. But then, ultimately, what’s to like about how he speaks? It can be as vapid and opaque as anything from Obama or [insert hated orator here]. If anything, one can say it’s more insidious because it’s more populist.

              It’s nice that Trump uses simple words that Real Americans can understand, but we don’t know what he’s actually proposing any more than we knew what Obama was proposing when he rambled about principles and dreams and hopes and what “there are those who say” are saying.

              1. I’m provoked into trying to remember when we Americans ever knew what any President was actually proposing. Sometimes I’m not even sure the Presidents themselves really knew. Large words or small, the only politician I could really have any confidence in is he or she who can tell us the things we don’t want to hear.

              2. Where “Real Americans” = half-educated, subliterate goobers?

          2. It depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is, according to one former President of the United States…

          3. Yes

      2. I remember a few years ago when it was considered racist to criticize someone’s English.

    2. The Don serves the Republican Party. Everything that comes out of his mouth is in the platform God’s Own Prohibitionists dedicated to “First Responders.” Those are the new version of the “Dry Killers” that murdered nonviolent innocents beginning the Night of January Sixteenth when Constitutional prohibition arrived with all of the violence of law.

      1. Oh fuck off. You just puke out the same tired lines in every deranged comment. Do you also roll around in your own recess.

  3. This certainly explains that drop in the DOW that so perplexed Matt. Comstock-law bigots and Prohibition Party zealots angled with spoiler votes to control the Gee-Oh-Pee platform committee. That control was consummated in 1928, after which voters crossed the streets to avoid Republicans, panics, crashes and Depressions for two dozen years. The Bush-Reagan and Waffen Bush crashes were repetitions of prohibition enforcement by asset forfeiture wrecking the economy. The Flash crashes of 2010 and 2015 were mini crashes set off by prohibitionist asset-forfeiture looting. Sooner or later logical induction will again kick in and all save brain-dead mystics will again cross the street to avoid the parties of coercive mystical pseudoscience. Lucky thing they have the LP to vote for and win.

    1. Tell us how you really feel.

    2. You love it and you know.

  4. Sadly, I believe there is a disturbingly large percentage of the population that would have absolutely no problem with declaring open season on drug dealers and drug users. Most police officers wake up every morning praying for an excuse to commit murder. The conservative talking heads would no doubt approve, as would a good portion of their disciples. Police departments already consider themselves to be occupying armies, and the public to be their enemy. We all think that things like that could never happen here. That’s what everyone thinks. Until it happens.

    1. “Most police officers wake up every morning praying for an excuse to commit murder.”

      Spoken like a truly ignorant asshole.

      1. In vino veritas. I’ve listened to my fair share of drunk cops spout off, and without exception they all dreamed of killing someone. They’d get all weepy because they hadn’t yet had the chance.

        1. And I’ve heard friends drunkingly say they wish they could be like Aragorn in LOTR. I guess they wake up every morning hoping orcs over run the USA so they can slice them down. That’s what my scientific reasearch concludes based on rigorous research methods you set out.

          Rather than judge individuals, you make blanket statements about most cops based on anecdotal bar conversations. That’s not very libertarian of you. People like you are why so many people think libertarians are a joke and treat us accordingly. Be better.

          1. The difference is that cops carry guns, use force for a living, and routinely get away with lying on reports and in court. They can, and do, easily get away with murder. Unlike your friends with broken swords.

            1. Most cops do that? How many cops easily got away with murder in 2017? Name 10.

              1. Mall cops? You mean security guards? Way to move the goalposts.

                1. I never said mall cops. Your comment doesn’t make sense.

                  Give me 10 examples from 2017 of cops easily getting away with murder. Let’s put some actual evidence on the table rather than anecdotal drunken bar conversations.

                  1. No thanks. I don’t want to get sick. Off the top of my head there’s the guy crawling on his hands an knees, begging for his life, who was executed for trying to pull up his pants. There’s that Kelly Thomas guy who was beaten to death. I doubt there is a cop in the country who wouldn’t defend the actions of the badges who killed them. Because they would have done the same thing if given the opportunity.

                    1. I have a right to my opinion, and I have a right to draw my own conclusions based upon my observations and life experiences. If you don’t like it, don’t read it.

                    2. And I have the right to my own opinion, and I have the right to draw my own conclusions based on my observations, life experience AND actual evidence. And I have the right to call you out if I believe your opinion is baseless and not supported by evidence or facts. If you don’t like it, you can hide in your safe space.

                    3. 2 then? In a country of hundreds of thousands of police officers, most of whom you claim wake up hoping for an excuse to easily murder someone, you came up with two example of it happening? Seems to me that your anecdotal drunken bar stories of cops wanting to murder people doesn’t show up in facts or evidence that most cops actually are waking up every morning wanting to murder people.

                      Also, did those cops get off scot-free? Were they charged with crimes? You failed to example how your two examples are proof that most cops wake up wanting to murder people.

                      So yes, you do indeed sound like an ignorant asshole.

                    4. One story is proof that “most cops wake up wanting to murder someone” to you? Do you also think all Muslims are terrorists? All illegal immigrants are criminals? All men sexually assault women? All Trump supporters are deplorable? I can find anecdotes showing those broad assertions too.

                      Do see the problem with judging groups of people rather than individuals?

                    5. Also, did those cops get off scot-free? Were they charged with crimes?

                      In one instance yes, the guy who shot the crawling guy got off scot-free. The ones who beat the homeless guy to death were given a show-trial to appease the masses. Then rehired with back pay.

                      The reason those guys in the bar were crying was because the opportunity to take a life doesn’t happen very often, and that made them sad. They took the job hoping to kill someone, and were crying in their beer because nobody gave them an excuse.

                      That doesn’t mean they’re not sociopaths.

                    6. A show trial appease the masses… Do you mean due process? You’re digging in deeper. You sound as pathetic as Trump when he says all illegal immigrants are criminals and then rattles off a few stories of illegal immigrants committing violent illegal acts.

                  2. I never said mall cops. Your comment doesn’t make sense

                    I misread your comment. Hair in my eyes or something.

                  3. 1,189 Americans killed by police in 2017. 12-15 of the police officers involved in those killings were charged with a crime related to a shooting death (i.e., voluntary manslaughter,) depending on the source. I’d say that’s certainly indicative of a problem.

                    You’re going to have a difficult time if you limit your scope to last year, 2017. However, Between 2005 and April 2017, 80 officers have been arrested on murder or manslaughter charges for on-duty shootings. During that 12-year span, 35% were convicted, while the rest were pending or not convicted, according to work by Philip Stinson of Bowling Green State University in Ohio. If you want a list of names of individual officers, feel free to browse the list because I don’t have time right now:


                    1. Are you assuming none of the officers convicted or not tried were not justified in their shootings? Raw numbers don’t provide details on individual cases.

                      Also, the debate was that most cops want to commit murder every morning when they wake up. Based on the data, have most cops murdered someone during the time period you posted? Or is it a very small minority of cops?

                    2. The debate should address abusive policing; police training (mostly the lack of it); police accountability (same); and militarized police.

                      (For an ostensibly libertarian site, this place seems to attract a remarkable number of ardent cop succors.)

      2. That’s why I’m scared to fucking death of cops. I know that in the back of their mind they’re hoping for an excuse to kill me.

        1. And individual cops who are as dumb as you think in the back of their mind that you are looking for an excuse to kill them. Ironic that you are exactly the kind of person you are complaining about.

        2. Sarcasmic, you couldn’t get arrested in this town if you tried.

          1. I’m too smart to get caught 😉

    2. Re: Sarcasmic,

      Sadly, I believe there is a disturbingly large percentage of the population that would have absolutely no problem with declaring open season on drug dealers and drug users.

      They’re called Trumpistas, by the way. Juat an FYI.

      They also have a propensity to get off on the idea of seeing millions of people being pushed in to boxcars and shipped to the Sonoran desert only because they don’t happen to have the State’s transit papers.

      Yeah, it’s a sticky situation… No pun intended!

    3. And that’s how Duterte got elected

  5. “Making the overdose-reversing drug naloxone more readily available will reduce overdoses.”

    It is utterly idiotic that the FDA makes this a prescription drug in the first place. But in Texas, State Legislatures have enabled a single doctor to write a prescription for ALL Texas residents to “access” Narcan, as a bypass to the idiots at the FDA… for exampe, see…..pharmacies … As I recall, one doctor wrote it for all CVS pharms, another for Walgreen’s… Or was it the same doctor? Not sure…

    WHY can they do that for Narcan, but they don’t do it for utterly stupid “medical devices” like the “lung flute”? I think there is SOME moral culpability going on when you get hooked to heroin… Yet “junkies” are more “politically correct”, and deserving an FDA bypass, than I am, for accessing a simple, cheap plastic flute! I wrote to my state rep and asked her to “enable” a state-wide prescription for the “lung flute” and the “ear popper” as samples of this utterly stupid trashy micro-management from the nannies and ninnies at the FDA… No dice, not even a response! Junkies deserve more freedom than I do, it seems…

    1. Narcan is becoming available OTC in many states, and it’s absolutely saving lives. I forgot to mention that in my own comment. I almost got an auto-injector of it just to have even though I’ve never been around anyone doing opiates recreationally. I abstained mostly because of a fear that I’ll end up on 17 watch-lists, and I already worry about that buying my yearly box of Sudafed.

      FDA is full of shit. All you have to look at is how they approved Chantix even with all its psychiatric side-effects.

      If people insist on having it, approval should be voluntary. All the nannies can pay $20k a year for approved drugs, and I’ll do my own research like a grown-up and risk it.

      1. Yeah man, Chantix? W/ “mere” side effects of driving you to suicide! If this were a “natural” (non-patentable) compound like pot, smack, coke, etc., it would be outlawed! But pharm companies have patents and make campaign contributions, so it stays prescribe-able? Find a doctor who is OK with enabling you to become suicidal, and you are off to the races!

        To top this all off? As you allude to? In the days of the Internet, one can easily self-educate oneself on drugs, side effects, and bad interactions? So why not say, the hell with ALL prescription drugs & “devices”; make them ALL OTC? ? The saddest part of it all is, we ***MUST*** own our own diseases anyway, and do our own research along these lines? Because MANY doctors are too stupid and / or lazy to do it for us! Friends of mine, they have a son with bipolar, and they did NOT “bone up” on the meds, and do a simple Google search? Google will easily red-flag (search on anti-depressants and lithium, or anti-depressants and bipolar), that bipolar patients need “mood stabilizers” ONLY (like lithium), and should NOT be mixed with anti-depressants, which will drive the patient towards mania! This is common knowledge! Their stupid shrink prescribed exactly that, prescribed this bad drug comb, and kiddo spends almost 1 month in the psyche ward? You can bet that they double-check the shit out of stupid doctors now any more!

        1. Yes sir/ma’am/spaghetti monster. My bipolar friend had a psychiatrist (MD!!) put her on a relatively high dose of Cymbalta, which is an SNRI, which is even more stimulating than typical anti-depressants. Now, to be fair she was supposed to be taking topiramate as a mood stabilizer, but mania is wayyy more fun than the brainfog of “Dopamax,” so she just didn’t take it.

          Now she’s on Vyvanse, an amphetamine.

          Crazy manic, like ruining her otherwise very succesful life manic, both times.

          Lithium worked well, too, but the weight gain is substantial, and nobody wants that. Seems like Lamictal, an unusual seizure medication, has become a seriously worthwhile option for bipolar patients. It’s never prescribed, though. Everyone’s afraid of rashes and SJS (and TBF, SJS is no joke).

          People, including doctors, are floored by how much I’ve learned from Google.

  6. I noticed that this new opioid crisis is generally correlated to the rescheduling of hydrocodone to schedule II, alongside meth and coke. They also can’t be refilled and require physical prescriptions.

    Now only codeine and tramadol, both pro-drugs that require healthy liver metabolism to work, are schedule III or lower.

    20% of the population can’t use these pro-drugs: half because they under-metabolize them and get no benefit (but still side-effects), and half because they over-metabolize them and OD.

    But less people are poppin’ Vicodin like House, so that’s a win, clearly.

  7. “Needle exchanges will reduce the spread of diseases. Making the overdose-reversing drug naloxone more readily available will reduce overdoses.”

    Fine with me in a theoretical world where the private sector and deregulation does this. However, in practice, this translates to more government spending to help people unwilling to help themselves

    1. A lot of places are making naloxone more available in a pretty deregulatory kind of way (i.e. simply allowing people to buy it from a pharmacists without a prescription).

      And on balance, if there has to be some kind of program, I think I’d rather it be helping people who can’t be bothered to help themselves than the current program of brutalizing and imprisoning people.

  8. Apparently, there’s currently a huge problem in the Philippines with all the funeral homes being overloaded and there is a huge waiting list to get someone buried.

    1. They should go the route that London used during the Black Death, giant pits with hundreds of bodies in each.

      Of course the rich people all left after the first case, so only the poor people are in those graves, don’t worry.

  9. I have no problem at all with going after the pushers, assuming that means the Pharma companies that have intentionally encouraged and profited from the opioid epidemic through ever increasing concentrations in their pills. They have knowingly encouraged addiction by overproducing dosages that are only suitable for those heavily addicted and well beyond what’s suitable for pain management.

    Oxycontin production is capped. Pharms push out pills at high concentration only suitable for addicts, and leave the supplies of lower content of limited availability for those needing long-term pain management. Pharma knows exactly what their market is and happily make profits off addicts, while screwing everyone else.

  10. A lot of these murdering prohibitions are alcoholics.

  11. Duterte and Dude Tard.

  12. We should end the War on Drugs, but just to be the devil’s advocate, I will point out that recent history shows how easy it is to win the War on Cartoonists if one is willing to be tough enough.

    1. Junkies are a lot more determined to get a fix than most cartoonists are to draw Mohamed.

      But you are probably right, if you are willing to be absolutely brutal and ignore everyone’s civil liberties, you probably could make a significant reduction in drug use.

  13. Yeah man, did the cartoonist of THIS one… … Ever get killed for portraying Muhhamad, and speaking a truth or three?

  14. I guess this means DEA will be raiding companies like Purdue Pharma, Inc. and rounding up pharmaceutical salespeople and seizing all their ill-gotten gains?

    “Our” government has tried every money-hemorrhaging, cockamamie tactic under the sun, but steadfastly refuses to discuss the solution of FREEDOM and RESPONSIBILITY. That tells me this war was designed with profitability and social control in mind, and was never designed to be won. “MOAR War, MOAR police state, MOAR Drug War.” It’s nice to finally have a liberty-loving Republican who’s bucking the status quo and dealing non-stop punishing blows against the Deep State!

    1. HRC, in a moment of rare candor, told us we can’t end the WOD because “there’s too much money in it”. I actually had hope that maybe Obama would be the guy who would finally ratchet this shit down. He was an admitted drug user. He had all of the political capital he needed. If he really gave a shit about black people and the criminal justice system, he could have saved a lot of their lives. States were liberalizing MJ prohibition. It was a rare moment in time wherein the prohibition culture could have been challenged. Instead we got business as usual and Obamacare. In his 8th year he commuted the sentences of a relative handful of federal drug prisoners, the same people he fucking locked up.
      It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Trump is going to give us 4 or 8 more years of this crap and the “opioid crisis” will serve him well. And I’m pretty sure HRC would be doing exactly the same. At this point I don’t see an end to the WOD until the empire finally collapses. And it will.

  15. People shouldn’t need the government to save them from themselves. Personal responsibility and all that.

    Just leave that shit alone.

  16. You’re never gonna get drug liberalization as long as Republicans are in power. I’m just saying. All you have to do is make tax cuts for gazillionaires your second priority instead of your first, and maybe we’ll get some libertarian policy.

    1. You’re never gonna get drug liberalization as long as Anyone is in power.


      Shouldn’t be anyone in “power”. They are supposed to be serving us.

      1. You know what I mean so stop muddling things.

    2. Obama had eight fucking years.

      1. I didn’t say Democrats would automatically do it, merely that Republicans certainly won’t.

        Democrats will do it when they have the power and political cover to do it. They don’t exactly lead national conversations, it’s safe to say.


    1. As I type this, legal drugs from all over the world, including Mexico, are literally pouring into this country over every international border, without the involvement of a single criminal organization. Import fees and taxes are paid, quality and purity of product is assured; dealers pay income taxes on the money they make, consumers pay sales taxes on their purchases. Everyone is protected. Are they 100% safe? No. Nothing in life is ever 100% safe. Oddly enough, some of us want to live it anyway.

      Here’s a no-brainer: If you don’t like drugs, don’t use them. If you don’t want criminals smuggling drugs into the country, legalize the damn drugs and let duly licensed and regulated businesses take over. Problem solved. But don’t pretend your desire to keep only Mexicans out of the country has anything to do with drugs. It doesn’t.

  18. The war on drug has been going on more like 100 years than 40 years and it was just as racist in the 20’s-30’s as it was when Nixon declared the war on drugs.

  19. I know that in the back of their mind they’re hoping for an excuse to kill me. gmail login

  20. I agree President Trump, when are You gonna begin kicking Big Pharma’s @ss?

  21. More proof that republicans agree with libertarians on 1.5 issues: gun control and lower taxes but with massive spending. How’s the lesser of two evils working out?

  22. just before I saw the receipt that said $7527 , I accept that my mom in-law woz like actualey making money in there spare time from there pretty old laptop. . there aunt had bean doing this for less than twentey months and at present cleared the depts on there appartment and bourt a great new Citro?n 2CV . look here……. Clik This Link inYour Browser


  23. That comment illustrates the essence of Donald Trump and the half-educated, bigoted, downscale goobers who support him.

    Authoritarianism. A simpleton’s approach. Stale thinking. Mean-spiritedness. Empty rhetoric that lathers up the gullible, depleted human residue in our can’t-keep-up rural and southern backwaters.

    Trump and his right-wing supporters are, at root, a bunch of no-good cop succors.

  24. “Prohibition is not only ineffective, but counterproductive, at achieving the goals of policymakers both domestically and abroad.”

    And yet it continues, expands, escalates, year after year after bloody year. Seems to me that it’s way past time to acknowledge that it was never about reducing drug use, that the destruction of human life and liberty is not an “unintended consequence” or a an unfortunate means to a glorious goal, but the WHOLE POINT.

    The goals are lies. Everything about this campaign, from its name to its much-lamented “failure,” is a lie.

  25. My conservative brethren usually get upset with me when I tell the laws against illegal drugs do the opposite what they want. They ignore their own long-established economic rule of supply and demand.

    When there’s a media photo-op with a cop holding up a picture of a killed drug dealer and standing at a table piled high with seized drugs, who cheers the most?

    That drug dealer’s competition down the street. The cops eliminated a competitor and reduced the supply of drugs on the street — something every drug leader would love to do because of the riches he stands to gain.

    After such photo-ops, do the police receive anonymous thank-you cards? Maybe they do and are too embarrassed to admit it.

  26. We’ve been fighting the drug war unsuccessfully for close to a lifetime. it would be a waste of all that effort to stop now.

  27. Well let’s be honest here… There are two ways to make the drug problem “go away.” One is to legalize everything, and the other is to just kill all the drug dealers and drug users. They’d both work if you implemented them hard enough! LOL

    I myself am for legalizing of course, but since we’re not supposed to believe in the superiority of western classical liberal values (because that’s racist), how can we really judge the Philippines and the way they decided to handle it? 🙂

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