President Donald Trump has laid out a new plan for tackling the deadly opioid epidemic that has ravaged communities across the nation. But some of the president’s proposals have proven ineffective in the past.
From renewing his call for “spending a lot of money” on commercials to scare young people from experimenting with drugs, to pushing for the death penalty for certain drug dealers, Trump’s ideas are sometimes driven more by his gut instincts than past success.
A look at some of his claims:
TRUMP: “That’s the least expensive thing we can do, where you scare them from ending up like the people in the commercials. And we’ll make them very, very bad commercials. We’ll make them pretty unsavory situations.” — Speech in New Hampshire on Monday.
THE FACTS: There is some evidence that anti-drug messages focused on teenagers’ need for independence can be effective. But the older “scared straight” approach described by Trump has shown few positive results.
Between 1998 and 2004, the U.S. government spent nearly $1 billion on a national campaign designed to discourage young people from using illegal drugs, particularly marijuana.
A 2008 follow-up study funded by the National Institutes of Health found the campaign “had no favorable effects on youths’ behavior” and may actually have prompted some to experiment with drugs — an unintended “boomerang” effect.
TRUMP: “Take a look at some of these countries where they don’t play games. They don’t have a drug problem.” — Speech in New Hampshire on Monday.
THE FACTS: Trump’s suggestion that nations that execute drug dealers don’t have problems with drugs is not backed up by data.
Trump didn’t name countries in his speech Monday. But he’s previously pointed to Singapore as a model for enforcement. The group Harm Reduction International says Singapore executed eight people for drug trafficking from 2015 to 2017.
Singapore doesn’t publish reliable data on drug use, according to Rick Lines, executive director of the group. But he said attempting to use Singapore as a model of effectiveness for the death penalty is “ludicrous” in an essay published Monday by the news website The Conversation.
An annual report from Singapore’s narcotics bureau shows seizures of methamphetamine and cannabis increased in 2016 over the previous year, with heroin seizures remaining stable, Lines wrote.
TRUMP: “Some of these drug dealers will kill thousands of people during their lifetime — thousands of people — and destroy many more lives than that. But they will kill thousands of people during their lifetime, and they’ll get caught and they’ll get 30 days in jail. Or they’ll go away for a year, or they’ll be fined.” — Speech in New Hampshire on Monday.
THE FACTS: Under federal law, individuals can be sentenced to death for intentionally killing someone during a drug crime or as part of a drug enterprise. But that doesn’t mean they will be. The Death Penalty Information Project cites just 14 death row inmates whose crimes were drug-related.
And when Trump referred to dealers killing thousands of people, he was likely referring to accidental overdose deaths caused by their products. Those aren’t under that so-called kingpin statute.
There are other federal laws that could be construed to allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty against traffickers when a certain amount of drugs or money is involved and there has been no killing, but no administration has ever successfully pursued a death sentence under them.
Also, some federal mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug crimes carry sentences of 10 to 20 years, or even life in prison, not just fines or 30-day jail stints.
Johnson reported from Seattle. Associated Press writers Sadie Gurman and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.
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