Washington (March 15, 2018) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) released the following statement in response to a Politico report that President Donald Trump will recommend the death penalty for individuals who traffic opioids, including fentanyl, as part of his soon-to-be-released opioid plan. The plan, which reportedly also contains a number of recommendations from the President’s opioid commission, including many focusing on law enforcement, comes after the President last fall declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency, but then failed to provide Congress with any funding request to invest in states and families struggling to address the crisis. Additionally, key leadership positions responsible for organizing comprehensive administrative actions on the opioid crisis remain vacant, with a patchwork of individuals, with little to no public health or government experience, playing undefined roles in the administration’s non-response.


“We will not incarcerate or execute our way out of the opioid epidemic,” said Senator Markey. “We are still paying the costs for one failed War on Drugs, and now President Trump is drawing up battle plans for another. Extreme proposals like using the death penalty only perpetuate a harmful stigma associated with opioid use disorders and divert attention from meaningful conversations and progress on expanding access to treatment, recovery, and other public health initiatives that are critical to saving lives. Patients and families suffering in this opioid crisis don’t need toughness, they need treatment.


“With 115 Americans dying every day from an opioid overdose, we urgently need a comprehensive strategy that treats opioid addiction like the national public health emergency it is and focuses on effective solutions, not failed policies of the past. I will closely examine his plan in its entirety upon release.”


In January, Senators Markey and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) sent a letter to President Trump outlining his administration’s lackluster response to the opioid crisis.