Speaking to law enforcement leaders this week, President Trump vowed to be “ruthless” in the fight against drugs that are “poisoning our people.” Trump’s comments represent a sharp departure from the Obama administration, which disavowed the harsh anti-drug rhetoric of previous decades in an effort to emphasize treatment of drug users over punishment, the Washington Post reports. “We’re going to stop the drugs from pouring in,” Trump told the Major Cities Chiefs Association. Aside from the cartels, Trump did not elaborate on who would be at the receiving end of that ruthlessness.
“This rhetoric is dangerous, disturbing, and dishonest,” said Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance. “History has taught us that cracking down on drugs and building walls will not stop the supply or use of drugs. It mostly causes the death and destruction of innocent lives.” Nearly 80 percent of Americans favor eliminating mandatory minimum drug sentences like ones Trump called for expanding. A 2014 Pew Research Center survey showed that Americans strongly prefer treating drug users over incarcerating them, 3 to 1. Federal policy has been slow to reflect that preference. “Ruthlessness is a great virtue for a gangster or a warlord,” said drug policy expert Mark Kleiman of New York University. “Not so useful for the leader of a republic.” A number of experts believe supply-side drug policies can be effective if used judiciously and in conjunction with other policies. “We overlearned the lesson that supply control doesn’t work and failed to apply it to prescription opioids when we should have,” said Jonathan Caulkins of Carnegie Mellon University. He said he believes this contributed to the federal government’s inadequate response to “pill mills and other criminal excesses in the supply of prescription opioids.”