Elected representatives from the Democratic party are publicly separating themselves from progressive individuals who criticize law enforcement, while the death toll from drug overdoses remains high with tens of thousands of American fatalities annually.
Rep. Henry Cuellar, who represents a Texas border district, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Texas state Sen. Royce West
On Saturday, a representative from Dallas joined POLITICO at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin to discuss what actions are necessary to address the ongoing opioid crisis in America.
They reached a consensus that addressing drug trafficking at the border and punishing dealers is a crucial step, along with providing treatment and implementing preventative measures.
Their concern stems from a rise in deadly drug overdoses during the ongoing Covid crisis that shows no signs of decreasing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 110,000 individuals lost their lives last year due to illegal drugs, with the majority being attributed to the use of illicit fentanyl.
The company responsible for producing Narcan, a medication used to reverse opioid overdoses, sponsored the forum.
These are three key points from the event, which was moderated by Megan Messerly from POLITICO:
who sell to addicts
Some members of the Democratic party continue to advocate for harsh punishment for drug dealers who sell to individuals struggling with addiction.
Progressives believe that there is a clear connection between the war on drugs and the high rates of incarceration, and have urged Democrats to legalize drugs, reduce police funding, and use their discretion in prosecuting to lessen the negative impact of the war, especially on communities of color.
However, the three Democratic participants at the POLITICO forum expressed their belief in the importance of law enforcement.
West supported a recent Texas statute that authorizes prosecutors to accuse fentanyl sellers of murder and enhances the punishments for producing or supplying the substance.
“We must ensure that those who handle this matter comprehend the repercussions,” stated West.
Rosenblum, the official from Oregon, recognized the fentanyl issue in Portland, which has escalated since the legalization of possession of small amounts of illegal substances by state voters in 2020.
“It’s a prevalent issue that cannot be ignored. Anyone who denies it is simply turning a blind eye,” she stated, clarifying that her office takes a firm stance on preventing drug trafficking and vigorously prosecuting those involved.
When questioned about the impact of the drug war, Cuellar stated that its effectiveness is debatable.
to help stop the flow of undocumented migrants into the United States
Mexico can take additional measures to prevent the influx of unauthorized immigrants into the United States.
Cuellar refused the request of certain Republican extremists to launch an attack on the Mexican cartels.
However, the legislator from the border region expressed disappointment with the Mexican government’s lack of cooperation and with the diplomatic efforts of the Biden administration.
Cuellar expressed that there is potential for a stronger effort from the administration in regards to Mexico.
According to Cuellar, two ports on Mexico’s Pacific coast serve as entry points for chemicals sourced from China for the production of fentanyl. These chemicals are then transformed into fentanyl by criminal groups.
According to the source, intercepting drugs at the border between the U.S. and Mexico is a challenge due to the high volume of daily traffic from trucks, cars, and trains. This is because the current technology used to detect drugs is primarily focused on identifying larger shipments of illegal substances.
Fentanyl is available in small amounts, but its potency is so high that even small doses can produce numerous fake pills.
There have been instances where Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has reached out.
At times, he has refuted claims that his country produces fentanyl. However, at other times, he has denied it altogether.
The U.S. lawmakers were accused of blaming others and it was suggested that the country may not be facing an overdose crisis if Americans showed more affection towards their children.
Cuellar stated that the Mexican government collaborates with us, but their actions do not align with their words.
The use of naloxone and fentanyl test strips has the potential to prevent fatalities, however, opposition to the latter continues.
The panelists reached a consensus that it is necessary for naloxone, the medication used to reverse opioid overdoses, to be readily accessible throughout the nation, including schools and businesses, in the form of an over-the-counter nasal spray.
“When visiting Laredo’s fire stations, you may come across a dispensary for Narcan, the brand name for naloxone. This serves as evidence of the changing times,” Cuellar stated.
The speakers reached a consensus that test strips have the potential to save lives by allowing individuals to detect fentanyl contamination in pills or drugs they intend to consume.
Although many states have eliminated penalties for possession, a few, such as Texas, still classify them as illegal drug accessories.
According to the Dallas Morning News, a proposed legislation to legalize strips, backed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, was rejected in the Texas Senate due to concerns from certain legislators that it could lead to increased drug abuse.
According to West, there is currently no agreement among Texas Senate members to decriminalize strips, despite his proposal to do so.
“Regrettably, the increasing number of deaths caused by fentanyl may lead to a greater willingness to decriminalize its use,” he stated.
West expressed confidence that the project is progressing and will eventually be completed.