Two drug crises have fought their way to the top tier of American consciousness: prescription medication addiction and drug trafficking.
Sorting out the appropriate guiderails for the use of prescription drugs — which, although they can be abused, also have legitimate uses in treating bodily conditions that range from the uncomfortable to the truly disabling — is complicated. It will involve input from medical professionals, pharmaceutical companies and government officials. It will also require us to develop safeguards against unanticipated uses while being mindful of the proper role of government.
The other drug crisis — drug trafficking — is just as complicated. As U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon notes, foreign cartels are responsible for trafficking the majority of methamphetamines, fentanyl and other deadly synthetic drugs across our southern border. This problem is not new; the nation has been battling drug trafficking for decades, with much pain and loss of life, little success and growing public demands to try a different strategy.
If this country could find a way to mitigate the damage done by prescription drug abuse and the illegal drug trade, the beneficial effects would spread across the public policy spectrum in areas as diverse as public health, criminal justice, housing policy, education and transportation.
A proposed constitutional amendment on the Ohio ballot in 2018 — which would have decriminalized lower levels of drug possession — had some unpopular collateral features and used confusing language. The measure was ultimately defeated, but the problems it sought to resolve remain. Inspired in part by Dhillon’s recent declaration that “Mexican drug trafficking organizations are the biggest criminal threat the United States faces today,” Ohio began action this week on a new proposal: House Concurrent Resolution 10.
The resolution says two things. First, it observes that the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act authorizes the federal government to designate an entity as a foreign terrorist organization if specific criteria are met. Second, it declares that foreign drug cartels meet the law’s criteria — especially the part about threatening the “security of United States nationals and the national defense, foreign relations, and the economic interests of the United States.” Resolution 10 was referred to the House Criminal Justice Committee this week.
The Buckeye State is currently the first in what could be a long list of states to plead for a simple authorization to use tools already at its disposal. If the designation is made, Ohio can seize assets and use other tools not currently available to law enforcement in its ongoing struggle against synthetic drug trafficking. Looking at the big picture, the measure can also focus the negative rhetoric cloaking the drug problems in the United States — not to mention our relations with our neighbor to the south — on criminal behavior that directly affects the citizens of our country.
For both the actual progress it makes toward a solution and the optics associated with the measure, Ohio is right to take the lead on petitioning the federal government to use the tools it has to attack a problem that affects nearly every major public policy issue confronting the nation.