Attorney General Jeff Sessions made an announcement at a news conference Tuesday that the Justice Department will be creating a new task force to pursue the makers and distributors of prescription opioids. It seems that beyond pursuing new restrictions being put on prescriptions, there will be a more intentional focus on Big Pharma and those who many believe have made the opioid crisis possible.
Jeff Sessions said the task force will “examine existing state and local government lawsuits against opioid manufacturers to determine if we can be of assistance.”
Meanwhile, Sessions also included the Justice Department is going to be backing a lawsuit in Ohio against major prescription opioid makers.
Ohio VS Opioid Makers Lawsuit
In truth, this lawsuit isn’t just about the state of Ohio. It consolidates more than 400 complaints by cities, counties and Native American tribes nationwide. Buckeye Nation has definitely been hit hard by the opioid crisis, but for now, the stage is set here for a massive effort against questionable practices from opioid makers.
The lawsuit that solicits the Justice Departments attention is pending in Federal District Court in Cleveland. It goes after various companies for using misleading marketing to promote prescription opioids, including:
The lawsuit also accuses the defendants of:
- Downplaying the risk of addiction to these drugs
- Failing to report suspicious orders by consumers, which would indicate the drugs were being abused
Furthermore, there are some big names in Big Pharma being listed as defendants, including:
- Johnson & Johnson
- Purdue Pharma
- Teva Pharmaceuticals
The suit is also going after large distributors, such as:
Not to mention pharmacy chains like:
So how will the Justice Department be engaging in the current lawsuit? How will this new development impact the outcome of the case?
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Statement of Interest Against Opioid Makers
During the press briefing, Sessions explained that the Justice Department plans to file what is called a “statement of interest” in the Ohio lawsuit. This is a technique that past administrations typically would only resort to in cases that directly affect the federal government’s interests, such as diplomacy and national security.
However, with the intensity of the opioid crisis being what it is, it is perfectly understandable to make it such a high priority for the current administration to get involved with. So far, recovery advocates have been largely unimpressed with the half-measures that have been presented thus far with the Trump administration to address the issue.
By invoking the statement of interest, the attorney general is legally able to argue on behalf of the government’s interest in any court in the country. However, it does not make the government a plaintiff. All things considered, Sessions said his department will use criminal and civil penalties. He states,
“We will use whatever tools we have to hold people accountable for breaking our laws.”
Which is quite a statement, considering it isn’t at all common for criminal charges to be brought against Big Pharma.
The Devil Is in the Data
What brought the Justice Department into this began with a discussion on access to certain data. This past Monday, lawyers for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) came to the Ohio courtroom to discuss how much data they would share about the national distribution of painkillers.
The DEA said it would only provide two years of information in the case, asserting that the agency did not want to compromise ongoing criminal investigations. However, Judge Dan Aaron Polster’s request is to provide the sides with nine years of data. He said the agency has until next Monday to decide whether it will comply. This data can assist in determining:
- The number of pills distributed
- The locations
- The distributors
This information could be crucial in allocating liability.
Richard Fields, a lawyer who represents state attorneys general and sovereign Native American nations in opioid litigation, predicts that the statement of interest from the Justice Department “will help unlock this data so that we can hold manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies accountable for flooding communities with pills.”
Therefore, it appears Sessions is going to be taking some big steps toward calling out Big Pharma for their involvement in the opioid crisis. Sessions says the government will be taking a hard look at doctors who overprescribe prescription painkillers. Even legal drugs like these too often lead to addiction and abuse of illegal drugs like heroin.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says he believes this is a game changer. With all the suffering communities in Ohio have seen over the past several years, we can only hope.
Holding Big Pharma accountable is a huge step. Nevertheless, we should also highlight the need for state and community officials to promote safe and effective addiction treatment. Innovative and holistic recovery programs can make a dramatic difference in helping heal communities. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
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For the last few years federal politicians, local officials, and addiction advocates have spoken a great deal about the critical condition of the opioid crisis in America. Just a few months ago President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency, and his administration had created a special White House Opioid Commission to do extensive research and community outreach to try and better understand the problem and offer possible solutions.
Now recent reports state that President Donald Trump is actually planning to cut the budget of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) just happens to be the top office responsible for coordinating the federal response to the opioid crisis. This plan is being noted as his administration’s second attempt to gut the ONDCP, so how would this change the current system?
What is the Plan?
So what does this mean? If President Trump were to go forward with this proposal, it would shift the office’s two main grant programs. These are:
- The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas grant
- The Drug Free Communities Act
According to POLITICO, multiple sources in the administration and others working with the government on the opioid crisis said those resources would then be given respectively to:
- The Justice Department
- Health and Human Services Department
According to a document from the Office of Management and Budget, this proposal would cut 95% of the ONDCP’s budget. Officials in President Trumps administration say that the approximately $340 million in grants will be administered by larger agencies. But the ONDCP will still serve as the White House’s drug policy shop. But the ONDCP will still be the main resource for President Trump for drug policy.
According to the proposal, President Trump and his administration believe these programs are just duplicates of other initiatives. This cut would also result in the ONDCP losing up to 33 employees. Skeptics say taking these resources leaves the policy office with little power or purpose.
Some Support President Trump Plan
Not everyone believes this is a bad idea. Some advocacy organizations are cautiously optimistic that changes to the ONDCP could actually end up being a good thing. One of them is the Drug Policy Alliance. They believe the opioid epidemic has continued to get worse under the ONDCP, and that maybe a shift in perspective is necessary to make a difference.
Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance states,
“The reality is that ONDCP is an agency in dire need of reform,”
Smith believes that the particular grant programs mentioned previously “are a phenomenal waste of money that contribute to the incarceration and stigmatization of drug users.”
They are also afraid President Trump would use a more powerful Drug Czar to aggressively treat drug abuse as a criminal justice issue rather than as a public health problem. If so, it might be a good idea to take the power of these grants out of the executive branch’s control.
Some believe the ONDCP won’t be particularly helpful for the future of drug policy due to some of the organizations part positions, such as denying medical use of marijuana or encouraging the expansion of workplace drug testing. There have been stories questioning the 24-year-old deputy chief of staff President Trump appointed to head the ONDCP. Some see having an individual with no drug policy experience running this important agency as an indication of inconsistnecy.
Supporters of moving the grants and cutting the ONDCP say it would decrease overlap since the DOJ already works on drug trafficking and HHS also has substance use prevention. This may not be the worst assumption either, considering that President Trump and his administration have touted a law-and-order approach that has many concerned about further stigmatizing and punishing those in need of help.
An OMB spokesperson stated,
“DOJ and HHS are both major grant management organizations that can look holistically at allocations across law enforcement and drug prevention and treatment resources.”
So some are hopeful it could just put the grants under a different roof. But critics say these programs are working, and it is hazardous to try and dramatically restructure them at such a desperate time.
Other Republicans Rebuke the Plan
Health policy experts, lawmakers, and even fellow Republicans are unhappy with this latest proposal. Some even say this is just one example of a series of actions showing that President Trump’s administration isn’t serious about addressing the opioid epidemic.
Last year the White House Office of Management and Budget proposed completely cutting these grants. However, that proposal was met with intense resistance from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers. Now, health experts and officials from both sides are speaking out against this plan. Regina LaBelle, who served as ONDCP Chief of Staff during the Obama administration, states:
“I’m baffled at the idea of cutting the office or reducing it significantly and taking away its programs in the middle of an epidemic,”
Many are already expecting lawmakers to push back again against this plan from President Trump.
Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito from West Virginia, a state ravaged by opioids, told POLITICO she will “resist that move”. Capito also says she believes the grants should be kept at ONDCP. This would keep them within the executive branch and under the president’s purview.
Republican Senator Rob Portman from Ohio, another state that has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic, said he also plans to fight back against the proposed cuts. Portman says the anti-drug programs the administration wants to cut have done an immense amount of good in Ohio.
Going Against Opioid Commission
President Trump established the White House Opioid Commission to make recommendations on addressing the opioid crisis. Now even advisors on this panel are saying this new move goes against the opioid commission’s recommendations.
Former Representative Patrick Kennedy, a member of the opioid advisory commission, said the panel advised President Trump to fortify the ONDCP, not defund it. The opioid commission had also endorsed both of these grants as crucial to overall response efforts. Kennedy went on to say,
“It guts the two main purposes of ONDCP… It really undermines the mission.”
So there are those that think changing the ONDCP could be a necessary sacrifice to make progress. However, others are concerned that it is not the right move, and definitely not the right time.
We should note that the proposal from President Trump is subject to change. There is still more time to learn about how moving money from the Office of National Drug Control Policy could impact the governments work against the opioid crisis. Could this change refine the process of accessing these grants? Or could it cripple an important agency for fighting addiction during of one of the country’s worst drug outbreaks? Hopefully, these changes can be managed in a way that creates new opportunities instead of removing them.
Providing support and life-saving resources is vital to overcoming addiction. Every day people are struggling with drug or alcohol use disorders, and some of them never find the help they need. Safe and effective addiction treatment is one of the best tools we have. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
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Before the hype around recreational use of marijuana in California could even begin to dwindle, new reports are stating that President Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions is planning to begin a federal crackdown on marijuana laws.
Jeff Sessions is set to announce today that he is rescinding memos sent out from the Obama administration that established a policy of non-interference with state laws concerning marijuana use. For some time now there have been several stories highlighting Jeff Sessions’ disagreement with allowing states to decide their own laws concerning medical or recreational marijuana use. Some sources indicate he has been planning a new strategy that will actually bring federal law to a head against state marijuana policies.
UPDATE: According to The Washington Post, Jeff Sessions notes in a memo sent to U.S. attorneys that federal law prohibits the possession and sale of marijuana. Sessions undid four previous Obama administration memos that advised against bringing prosecutions in states where marijuana was legalized to use for recreational or medical purposes. Sessions said prosecutors should use their own discretion in weighing whether charges were appropriate.
So what does all this mean for marijuana states?
The Obama Era Policy
The memo essentially describing the Obama-era policy through the Justice Department is known as the “Cole Memo”. It was named after then-Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole in 2013.
The “Cole Memo” outlined new priorities for federal prosecutors in states legalized use of marijuana. These shifts in policy represented a major change from the strict enforcement approach of past administrations to an attitude of non-interference. Back in 2014 U.S. Congress approved legislation preventing the DEA from carrying out any raids, arrest, or prosecutions of patients using medical marijuana. Congress also blocked law enforcement agencies under the Justice Department from consuming federal dollars in efforts to enforce federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized the use of medicinal marijuana. Under President Barack Obama, the Department of Justice did not pursue action against states that legalized recreational marijuana use. In 2015 there was a bipartisan effort in Congress to block the DEA from using federal funding for aggressively pursuing marijuana in the states where it was legalized.
The Obama era outline essentially allowed states to decide whether or not to legalize marijuana and to what extent. The federal prosecutors would not intervene as long as the state regulations did not threaten other federal priorities. So the distribution of marijuana to minors and cartels was still prohibited.
So with this announcement, many are wondering if Jeff Sessions will be working to undo other changes as well.
The Jeff Sessions Reversal
At the time of writing this article, whether or not Jeff Sessions will offer up a new strategy for dealing with marijuana-friendly states or not has yet to be seen. At this time the great concern is how this announcement may end up putting state and federal law in conflict, and what to expect out of enforcement from the federal government.
But many say this is a frustrating development, especially considering that President Trump has said in the past that he would not allow his attorney general to change the current policy, telling a reporter that,
“I’m a states person. I think it should be up to the states, absolutely.”
If we go back to February of 2017, Sean Spicer suggested in a press conference that the Trump administration and the Justice Department already had the intentions to no longer turn a blind eye to states with their own legal marijuana laws. At the time Spicer said the Trump administration would be “taking action” against these states. Contradicting all the talk of states’ rights and rolling back federal enforcement.
Many are wondering if President Trump was consulted about this decision, or if he has been made aware of the implications of this change. Especially since it goes against his original campaign promise to leave marijuana laws to the states.
This move would lay the groundwork for the federal government to begin a crackdown on the rapidly increasing marijuana industry all across the country. If these reports are confirmed this afternoon with no new innovations in their place, this move could have a drastic impact on the economics around the marijuana industry.
Sessions Track Record
However, this should all come as no surprise, since Jeff Sessions has repeatedly spoken out against decriminalization of marijuana and a return to the failed tactics of the War on Drugs at every turn.
In fact, a key adviser on marijuana policy to Jeff Sessions, Dr. Robert DuPont, believes drug testing should be a routine part of primary-care medicine. He has gone as far to suggest that primary-care physicians should be given the power to force some patients into treatment against their will. DuPont also suggests the following treatment to subject individuals to monitoring and random drug tests for up to 5 years.
Dr. Robert DuPont was among a small group of drug-policy experts involved last month in a closed-door meeting with Sessions to discuss federal options for dealing with the rapid liberalization of state marijuana laws.
The Marijuana States
Eight states and the District of Columbia have laws allowing for personal consumption of marijuana for recreational purposes. 28 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use. Even more states recently have begun to talk about changes in their own policies. California voters pushed through legislation to legalize recreational use back in November of 2017, and with the start of the New Year, those laws went into effect. Now, not even a week later, the fate of this state’s new policy is hanging in the balance.
Needless to say, marijuana advocates all over the nation are troubled by this news. According to NORML Political Director Justin Strekal,
“If the Trump administration goes through with a crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana, they will be taking billions of dollars away from regulated, state-sanctioned businesses and putting that money back into the hands of drug cartels,”
But some states are not ready to give up on their marijuana laws. Other Republicans, such as Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, are avidly speaking out in opposition to the recent decision by Jeff Sessions. Senator Gardner has vowed to prevent any new appointees for the Department of Justice from being confirmed until this reversal has been reversed.
Hopefully, when Jeff Sessions makes his official announcement, we will have some more clarity on how the federal government plans to address marijuana use going forward.
While the legal status of marijuana may soon be up for a serious debate, the fact remains that it is still possible to abuse marijuana. Whether a drug is legal or not, there are still risks. There are already plenty of legal drugs that cost thousands of lives every year. When substance use becomes habitual it can be extremely harmful to an individual who struggles with substance use disorder. Even though marijuana is not claiming lives like the opioid epidemic, for some it has adverse effects on the quality of life.
While marijuana is not considered to be as dangerous as other illicit drugs, such as heroin or methamphetamines, it can cause dependence for people who use the drug. The typical consensus that marijuana is not as physically destructive and addictive as other “harder” drugs doesn’t change the fact that psychiatrists also believe the psychological impacts of a substance do matter when talking about an addiction. These effects can be just as detrimental.
Marijuana addiction treatment offers a safe and secure environment while providing a variety of therapeutic opportunities to help develop a healthy lifestyle without relying on the use of marijuana or other drugs.
There still needs to be resources available to help people who suffer from abuse. Supporting addiction recovery means breaking the stigma and offering holistic and effective solutions. Palm Healthcare Company is here to help. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
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Talking politics has always been a bit of a point of contention. It isn’t considered polite dinner conversation, and these days the political arena seems more polarized than ever with opposing opinions. However, many advocates on both sides of the isle agree that addressing the issue of drug abuse and addiction in America is a very important topic today. With so many differences of opinion regarding strategy it should be more important than ever to pay attention to the statistics. We must learn from our mistakes. So the fact that the U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions still supports the War on Drugs is a little disheartening. Now, Sessions is sticking to his idea of keeping it old school by endorsing the D.A.R.E. program.
The only problem is the D.A.R.E. program doesn’t have the successful record he seems to think it does.
Jeff Sessions Speaks at D.A.R.E. Conference
Tuesday, July 11 Attorney General Jeff Sessions attended a D.A.R.E. training conference in Texas. While at the conference Sessions gave a speech in which he praised the D.A.R.E. program’s work in the ’80s and ’90s, saying D.A.R.E. is:
“The best remembered anti-drug program today.”
“In recent years, people have not paid much attention to that message, but they are ready to hear it again.”
While D.A.R.E. may be the most ‘remembered’ anti-drug program, being practiced all over the country with one of the most recognizable names next to ‘Just Say No’, the real eye-brow raiser was when Jeff Sessions stated:
“We know it worked before and we can make it work again.”
However, the majority of the data suggests that D.A.R.E. didn’t really ‘work’ as well as Sessions thinks. Some would go as far as to say it didn’t really work at all, despite what Jeff Sessions claimed to know.
The D.A.R.E. program was created in 1983 in Los Angeles. In the years following the implication of the program, states and school districts made a great deal of investments into the program. Yet over time studies began showing that all this effort may have done more harm than good, much like the War on Drugs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance:
“To date, there have been more than 30 evaluations of the program that have documented the negligible long-term impacts on teen drug use.”
The agency also states that one intensive six year study even found that the program increased drug use among suburban teenagers, albeit a small amount.
According to a 1994 federal study, if students grew up and learned the dangers of drugs had been exaggerated or misinformed, they would distrust the lessons. Some insist this led to high rates of experimenting with drugs. Ironically enough, when D.A.R.E. was at its peak of activity in across the nation, between 1995 and 1996, teen drug rates were actually at their highest.
In fact, the American Psychological Association conducted a study including one thousand D.A.R.E. graduates over a ten-year period. After the decade, the study found no measurable effects were noted. The researchers compared levels of drug use, including:
- Marijuana and other illegal drugs
The data was collected before and after the D.A.R.E. program. Students were in sixth grade for the first period of the study, and were surveyed again when they were 20 years old. Although there were some measured effects shortly after the program on the attitudes of the students towards drug use, these effects did not appear to last.
D.A.R.E. to Do it Different
In defense of the D.A.R.E. program, the methods have changed since back in 2012 after the overwhelming empirical data influenced multiple levels of government to pull funding for the program. But it seems Jeff Sessions might want to push government funding back into the archaic attitudes that got the program nowhere.
Back in the ’80s and ’90s the program primarily involved police officers going to schools to educate kids about the dangers of gang violence and drug use. But many call the old techniques more ‘fear-mongering’ or ‘scare tactics’ than actual education. The majority of data shows these methods don’t seem to have the impact people thought they would.
Most drug policy experts believe that the attempts made to frighten kids away from drugs more often backfired. Even DARE’s own front-runners have acknowledged the program’s failures after years of denying the evidence.
The new strategy the D.A.R.E. program uses it evidence-based instead of fear-based. This reinvention includes the “Keepin It Real Program” that focuses on better decision making for kids. We should celebrate that D.A.R.E. is doing things a little different.
But the issue is most people are taking with these statements is that it appears Attorney General Jeff Sessions seems to think the old way was better. This jives pretty well with his ‘tough on crime’ agenda that aims to pursue harsher punishments, push for mandatory minimum sentencing and echoes negative stigma against people who use drugs. If Jeff Sessions makes a shift to supporting the new and improved D.A.R.E. then we can all breathe a little easier, but right now it isn’t looking that way.
Most people who are familiar with the War on Drugs, D.A.R.E. programs and other early attempts at addressing substance abuse in America will know that it definitely hasn’t been an easy road. We should focus on what we have learned about making treatment options more effective and showing more compassion for helping people suffering instead of punishing them. Getting help can save a life, and treatment can offer a far better future than prison. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
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