ATLANTA – Libertarian presidential hopeful Chase Oliver calls for the immediate end to the ongoing “war on drugs.”
“Forcing drugs onto the black market makes them less safe, their dosage less certain, and their true contents more suspect – making tragic overdose deaths more not less prevalent.” Oliver tweeted in response to President Biden’s State of the Union Address.
The so-called “war on drugs,” a term coined by President Richard Nixon in 1971, is a disaster. More than 550,000 Americans died from opioids just in the past 20 years.[i] An astonishing 107,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses—more than twice the number of U.S. traffic fatalities or gun-violence deaths—between June 2020 and May 2021. More than two-thirds of those deaths were among Millennials and Gen Zs.
The cost to American taxpayers is equally staggering. The United States federal drug control budget for Fiscal Year 2022 was more than $39 billion for more than a dozen agencies to address drug misuse and its effects. Of that amount, about 50 percent was for treatment.[ii] One estimate suggests more than $1 trillion has been spent on all drug enforcement activities during the past 40 years. [iii]
This huge taxpayer burden resulted in the opposite of the federal government’s declared intent of curbing drug use, and presumably, deaths. The cocaine and crack “zero tolerance policies” of President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s swelled jail and prison populations largely with young men of color, ruining lives, and communities.
By criminalizing the consumption of opioids, the federal government created the market for the production of the cheaper but far more deadly fentanyl sold as more expensive medications such as Oxycontin, Oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency seized more than fifty million fentanyl-laced, fake prescription pills in 2022, twice the amount seized the prior year. Most of these fakes were found to contain potentially lethal amounts of fentanyl, the DEA says.[iv]
The shift clearly needs to be away from costly enforcement to treatment to a free and open marketplace with a focus on treatment.
"We must address the opioid addiction crisis in this nation while also protecting a patient's legitimate need for medication to alleviate pain. Our current war on drugs model allows for neither, and we need a new path going forward.” Oliver says. “We must destigmatize addiction so those who need help can get it, and change the market conditions that allow fentanyl to flood our streets."
Oliver was the first openly gay Senate candidate in Georgia, where he garnered over 80,000 votes and forced a runoff between the Republican and Democratic candidates. As a result, he was quoted widely in national print and broadcast media, with Rolling Stone declaring he was the “Most Influential Libertarian.” Oliver is seeking the LP nomination for president in 2024.
Oliver is available for media interviews, university journalism, and communications students.
To learn more about Chase Oliver, donate, or volunteer, please visit votechaseoliver.com.
[i] Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking: Final Report | RAND
[ii] Drug Policy: Preliminary Observations on the 2022 National Drug Control Strategy | U.S. GAO
[iii] U.S. drug war has met none of its goals (nbcnews.com)
[iv] Fentanyl and the U.S. Opioid Epidemic | Council on Foreign Relations (cfr.org)