U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was in Tallahassee Thursday afternoon where he announced a new initiative that he says will take drug traffickers off the street and put them in prison cells, and suggested the death penalty be handed down “in drug trafficking cases where it is appropriate to do so.”
“Today, I am announcing with Acting DEA Administrator Rob Patterson that the DEA will surge 250 task force officers—and dozens more analysts—to places across America where the opioid crisis is at its worst,” Sessions said in a speech given at the U.S. District Courthouse in Florida’s capital. “These new resources will help us catch and convict more of the drug traffickers and corrupt medical professionals who are fueling the opioid crisis. And when we do, we will pursue the tough sentences they deserve.”
Sessions said an estimated 64,000 Americans died as the result of drug overdoses in 2016, 42,000 of them from opioids.
“That’s the equivalent of the entire city of Daytona Beach dying from drug overdoses in a single year,” Sessions added.
He says for Americans who are under the age of 50, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death. He says the crisis is being driven by the abuse of opioids, such as prescription painkillers, heroin, or even synthetic drugs like fentanyl.
“Let’s be clear about this: drug dealers take lives every day in America. As President Trump has said, career drug traffickers can take more lives than a mass murderer,” Sessions sa“That’s why the President has ordered us to seek the death penalty in drug trafficking cases where it is appropriate to do so. And just yesterday we began implementing this order at the Department.”
Speaking to a room of local and federal law enforcement officers and prosecutors, fhe attorney general pointed out the death penalty can also be given to drug dealers under Florida law.
“The people’s representatives have voted for these laws because they intend for us to use them,” Sessions said.
Sessions’ visit to Tallahassee comes just days after Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation into law that imposes tougher restrictions on prescription drugs and reinforces treatment programs in an effort to combat the opioid epidemic in Florida.
Florida’s opioidlaw places a three-day limit on prescriptions issued to help patients deal with acute pain. That limit could be extended to a seven-day supply of painkillers if a doctor determines a longer supply is medically needed for a patient.
Those with severe medical conditions, including cancer patients, people who are terminally ill, palliative patients, and those who suffer from major trauma, would be exempt from the restrictions.
The new law would mandate that doctors check with the state’s prescription drug database, known as the prescription drug monitoring program, before they prescribe or administer drugs. Before now, doctors were not required to check with the database. The requirement is designed to prevent people from going to multiple doctors to get prescriptions for painkillers.
The law aims to reduce the number of people who abuse street drugs, like heroin and fentanyl, after becoming addicted to prescription painkillers.
It’s estimated the state’s opioid epidemic claims the lives of at least 16 people in Florida every day.
“And as we all know, these are not just numbers – these are moms, dads, daughters, spouses, friends, and neighbors,” Sessions said in his speech. “Sadly, even newborn babies are suffering because of this epidemic. By the time this speech is over, another baby will be born in the United States who is physically dependent on opioids.”
Sessions vowed that the Trump administration will not sit back as the opioid epidemic shatters lives, families and communities. He says various programs have been initiated by the U.S. Justice Department in recent months to help fight the opioid crisis.