President Trump today suggested the “ultimate penalty” for drug dealers may be part of the solution to the opioid crisis and called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to bring lawsuits against manufacturers of the powerful and addictive painkillers.

Trump, in a brief appearance at a White House Opioids Summit to highlight the federal government’s response to the epidemic, said a criminal could get the death penalty or life in prison for shooting someone, but drug dealers, in spreading their poison, “can kill two thousand, three thousand people and nothing happens to them.”

“If you want to be weak, and you want to talk about just blue-ribbon committees, that’s not the answer,” Trump said. “The answer is you have to have strength and you have to have toughness.”

He went on: “Some countries have a very, very tough penalty, the ultimate penalty, and by the way, they have much less of a drug problem than we do. So, we’re going to have to be very strong on penalties.”

The president said he’s also spoken with Attorney General Sessions about suing the companies that manufacture and distribute the drugs, which are being blamed for thousands of overdose deaths each year.

“Hopefully we can do some litigation against the opioid companies,” Trump said. “I think that’s very important because the states are doing it, and I keep saying, if the states are doing it, why isn’t the federal government doing it.

“So that’ll happen,” said the president, who added that the White House will be rolling out new policy “over the next three weeks.”

Anne Hazlett, Perdue's assistant for Rural Development, applauded Trump for addressing the "enormous challenge" presented by the epidemic.

"No part of our country has gone untouched by this epidemic, and rural communities have been particularly impacted -- from law enforcement to social services and workforce development," Hazlett said in a statement. "As we seek to increase rural prosperity, USDA is committed to partnering with rural leaders in combating the opioid crisis, because it impacts the quality of life and economic opportunity in rural America."

Earlier, at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce forum on “Combating the Opioid Crisis," House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., said his panel is considering several pieces of opioid legislation that he hopes will be passed before Memorial Day.

The bills include a measure to add information about a patient’s use of opioids to certain medical records, establish a federal coordinator to oversee an electronic database on opioid statistics, funding resources, and analysis of the effectiveness of federal programs; and require the Government Accountability Office to assess ways to safely dispose of the drugs.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, also spoke at the Chamber event, saying there’s still a long way to go before the U.S. can turn the corner on the epidemic, despite devoting “unprecedented” resources to the campaign.

Portman said the bipartisan CARA 2.0 Act, introduced in the Senate this week, may help, building on the success of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) of 2016. The new legislation, he said, will provide additional resources to strengthen the government’s response. Click here to see a summary of the bill.


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