‘We Cannot Continue With Business As Usual’: Sessions Urges Prosecutors To Seek Death Penalty In Drug Cases
The move by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions comes after President Donald Trump released his plan to combat the opioid crisis. The administration's focus on criminalization as a way to combat the epidemic, though, has raised criticism from justice reform groups and other advocates.
Federal Prosecutors Told To Seek Death Penalty In Drug Cases
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions instructed federal prosecutors on Wednesday to seek the death penalty in drug-related cases whenever it is "appropriate," saying the Justice Department must boost efforts to counter America's epidemic of opioid abuse. His mandate to prosecutors followed a plan announced by President Donald Trump earlier this week that called for executing opioid dealers and traffickers, and for stiffer sentencing laws for opioid trafficking. (Lynch, 3/21)
Sessions Issues Memo On Use Of Death Penalty In Drug-Related Cases
“I strongly encourage federal prosecutors to use these statutes, when appropriate, to aid in our continuing fight against drug trafficking and the destruction it causes in our nation,” Sessions wrote. The memo points to statutes where the death penalty can be used, including certain racketeering activities, the use of a gun that resulted in a death during a drug trafficking crime, murder in advancing a criminal enterprise and dealing in “extremely large” quantities of drugs. (Roubein, 3/21)
In other news on the epidemic —
House Kicks Off Two-Day Opioid Hearing
The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee launched a two-day hearing Wednesday on the opioid crisis that includes discussion of 25 public health bills and features 19 witnesses. Full committee chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., spoke highly of President Donald Trump’s speech Monday addressing the crisis, noting that his committee was working on many of the same priorities. Walden hopes to pass a package to curb opioid addiction by Memorial Day. (Raman, 3/21)
Kaiser Health News:
Graphic: Opioid Painkiller Is Top Prescription In 11 States
Americans fill about 4.5 billion prescriptions each year, at a cost of more than $323 billion. But what are we actually buying? In 11 states, the top prescriptions are opioid pain pills that are mixtures of acetaminophen and hydrocodone (brand names Vicodin and Norco), according to new data from GoodRx, an online prescription cost service. (Gold, 3/22)
The Baltimore Sun:
FDA Targets Anti-Diarrhea Pills That Pennsylvania Doctor Calls 'Poor Man's Methadone'
An emergency room doctor with Lehigh Valley Health Network in Pennsylvania last year treated two people who nearly died from taking large quantities daily of an over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medication in an effort to get high or stave off the effects of opioid withdrawal. The two people who overdosed on loperamide, the active ingredient in the anti-diarrhea medication sought by opioid addicts when they cannot get their drug of choice, so alarmed Dr. Kenneth Katz that he contacted a manufacturer of loperamide. He told the company its product represented “a public health hazard.” (Lehman, 3/21)
Colorado Cited This Drug Rehab Center Operator 50 Times In 3 Years And It’s Still In Business. Iowa Shut It Down In Two Months.
Iowa regulators blocked Nathan Hardage from treating drug addicts in 2014 amid allegations he assaulted a patient, allowed others to drink alcohol and let recovering drug abusers watch people smoke marijuana while in treatment. But the self-described “wounded healer” found a more lenient regulatory environment in Colorado. He owns two addiction rehab clinics in Colorado Springs and Aurora and 16 sober-living homes in Colorado despite a growing list of allegations against him, including sexual harassment, abuse of patients and inappropriate billing practices at his CoreVision program. (Osher, 3/21)
Arizona Needle-Exchange Bill Gets Watered Down In State Senate
Sponsored by Rep. Tony Rivero, R-Peoria, House Bill 2389 called for the legalization of syringe-access programs, which currently operate under the radar and afoul of Arizona drug paraphernalia laws. According to the proposed legislation, which passed unanimously out of the state House last month, programs could legally exist if the goal is to reduce the spread of disease, minimize needle pricks to law-enforcement officers and encourage people to enroll in treatment programs. (Pohl, 3/21)