Advocates were not impressed with Trump’s statement on drug policy.
At a UN meeting on the “World Drug Problem” on Monday (Sept. 24), Trump urged other countries to join the “fight” against the “scourge of drug addiction”—but critics say Trump is pushing a failed policy that has only perpetuated the drug problem with each administration.
The meeting was his first address of the 73rd meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.
About 129 countries signed a pledge to fight the global drug problem on Monday, Reuters reports. The Global Call to Action on the World Drug Problem put forth by the U.S. laid out a four-pronged strategy:
1. Reduce demand for illicit drugs through education, awareness, and prevention of abuse.
2. Expand treatment efforts to save lives and promote recovery.
3. Strengthen international cooperation across judicial, law enforcement, and health sectors.
4. Cut off the supply of illicit drugs by stopping their production, whether through cultivation or manufacture, and flow across borders.
“If we take these steps together, we can save the lives of countless people in all corners of the world. And when I say countless, I’m talking about millions and millions of people,” said Trump.
In the U.S., drug overdose deaths claimed 63,632 lives in 2016—42,249 of them (66.4%) involved opioids, according to CDC data. “Opioids—prescription and illicit—are currently the main driver of drug overdose deaths,” the CDC reported.
According to the 2018 World Drug Report, drug overdose deaths helped drive a decline in U.S. life expectancy in 2015 and 2016.
However, not everyone was impressed by Trump’s statement on drug policy. “I think Trump is using this global platform at the UN to feign leadership on this issue,” said Hannah Hetzer of the Drug Policy Alliance.
Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of Law Enforcement Action Partnership, a coalition of police and other criminal justice professionals dedicated to educating the public about drug policy and criminal justice issues, said Trump’s UN address and the “war on drugs” mentality will only yield more of the same.
“We must condemn any effort to promote this backwards, violent policy that has fueled dangerous criminals, killed hundreds of thousands of people, and threatens our international relationships and national security,” Franklin said.
“Reducing the harms of drug use worldwide requires international relationships built on mutual cooperation, trust, and evidence-backed solutions—not heavy-handed, unilateral threats.”