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Trump in N.H.: Drug Dealers Deserve The Death Penalty

Robert Garrova / NHPR

President Trump's speech at Manchester Community College today about the national opioid epidemic included plenty of New Hampshire references.

Trump took time to thank Governor Chris Sununu and Manchester Fire Chief Daniel Goonan for attending.

The speech ranged widely on topics including sanctuary cities, DACA and the border wall with Mexico, but the President did not make any specific announcement of new funding measures to fight the opioid epidemic.

Trump did make it clear that he wants to see tougher penalties for those convicted of drug trafficking.

“But if we don’t get tough on the drug dealers, we’re wasting our time," he said. "Just remember that: We’re wasting our time. And that toughness includes the death penalty."

The President also said he is in favor of funding the production of “bad commercials” which are aimed at scaring youth from using drugs.

On the Front Lines

The President’s speech got mixed reviews from those on the front lines of the state's opioid crisis.

Jim Moser of East Kingston, who attended the event, said he could see sincerity in Trump's eyes as he spoke about the crisis, and said the focus on public education that the president laid out Monday will help. He and his wife Jeanne lost their son to an overdose in 2015. The president called them up to the podium, to their complete surprise, in the middle of his remarks.

Jim Moser applauded Trump’s call for a dramatic cut in opioid prescriptions. “This country takes prescription opioids way too lightly,” he said. His son had been taking leftover medication stored in their home.

Others, though, criticized Trump’s vision for a public-awareness campaign that would highlight the dangers of drug abuse, and warned that stricter law enforcement penalties would end up hurting those who need help the most.

"I think it’s appalling that he is looking to escalate the war on drugs the way he is,” said John Burns, who runs recovery support groups and centers on the Seacoast. “It’s an approach that’s failed for decades.”

“I have serious concerns with some aspects of President Trump’s proposal and rhetoric,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster, who has led bipartisan efforts in Washington to address the epidemic. “The constant message I hear in New Hampshire from law enforcement, treatment providers, the recovery community, and others is that we cannot arrest our way out of this crisis.”

Many were hoping the President would offer more specificity on how federal funds targeted at substance abuse treatment and prevention will be allocated, and what share New Hampshire will receive.

Sununu, Kuster and others in New Hampshire’s congressional delegation have been pushing the administration to reconfigure the funding formula that’s been used to distribute money to states. They say it unfairly favors states with larger populations at the expense of smaller states, like New Hampshire.

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