Ten percent of the American population over the age of 12 is addicted to some type of illicit drug like heroin or crack, or a legal drug obtained for illegal purposes like a prescribed opioid. Each day, over 24 million men, women, and teens struggle with the urge to use and the physical, mental, emotional, social, and financial consequences after they do use. The drug epidemic is consuming our nation.

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Talking to kids about drugs will not stop addiction. Just ask Nancy Reagan. Photo: HeroinSupport.org

Donald Trump’s solution to the opioid and other drug crises is to talk to kid and to “tell kids drugs are bad.” Trump addresses crisis in one of two modes. He either ignores and denies it as he has with the drug epidemic and the humanitarian disaster in Puerto Rico; or he escalates it as he has done with North Korea and Charlottesville. He chooses to fill his agenda, too, with trivialities and personal beefs, rather than pursuing matters of intense national concern.

Donald Trump’s solution to the opioid and other drug crises is to talk to kid and to “tell kids drugs are bad.” Trump addresses crisis in one of two modes. He either ignores and denies it as he has with the drug epidemic and the humanitarian disaster in Puerto Rico; or he escalates it as he has done with North Korea and Charlottesville. He chooses to fill his agenda, too, with trivialities and personal beefs, rather than pursuing matters of intense national concern.

The growing opioid, crack, and recreational drug crisis in the United States is not a trivial concern to anyone with a family member, friend, or co-worker who is an addict. With 1-in-10 adults using, it is likely that every person reading this knows an addict.

With the loss of another top-level cabinet member, Tom Price, Trump’s inability to address the national drug emergency through the Department of Health and Human Services is evident. His failed leadership, planning, experience, and concern for America continue to shuffle the burden to state and local authorities. As the drug crisis snowballs, no one is able to formulate a plan or policy to address adequately and appropriately the needs of addicts and families.

Educated and knowledgeable leaders must stop forcing a policy of criminalizing addiction. Addiction is a medical condition. If we, as a nation, are going to continue to penalize addicts for a medical condition, then it is time to criminalize diabetes and jail any diabetic seen consuming a 2-liter bottle of soda with dinner — and lock them up in a prison where they can be fed high-sugar, high-carbohydrate diets that will exacerbate their medical conditions.


Understanding the wiring in an addict’s brain.


A key weapon in the battle against urban and rural drug proliferation is funding for non-criminal support systems — safe houses, recovery centers, and non-financial support for addicts are important elements of any community drug policy. Stemming the flow of money from the public, to addicts, to the dealers is perhaps the most critical part of drug interdiction. It cannot be accomplished by civil forfeitures, police seizures, and other failed programs touted by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

While addicts may ultimately find other methods to obtain drugs, cash makes it too easy to satisfy the urge and accelerate usage. Eliminating cash flow creates a temporary roadblock that may allow enough time for a craving to pass, for a family member to intervene, or for the addict to make the first step towards remission by reaching out for help. Unfortunately, cash is available everywhere.

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No, it’s not your eyes. This sign really says: “Get your late night fix!”

With over 10,000 pawnshops in the nation, addicts have an easy source of cash where they can trade practically any commodity — legal or stolen — for a fix. The National Pawn Brokers Association paints America’s pawnshops as family-friendly places that are a great place to shop, but they are also the same places tearing other families apart.

Federal, state, and local laws regulate pawnbrokers. In most cases, a plethora of federal rules governs the business of trading goods for immediate cash including: the Privacy Act of 1974, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Bank Secrecy Act, the Patriot Act, the FTC Red Flag Rule, and a variety of IRS codes. In many state and local jurisdictions, pawnshops are required to see photo identification and keep a digital photographic record of the person and the item. These may or may not be uploaded to local police departments.

The biggest regulatory concern for most pawnshop licensees is the possibility of receiving stolen property. However, a larger concern should be for the cost of human life that a quick loan may have on an addict. In day when a $100 pawn ticket can mean a fatal overdose, it is time to cut the link between pawnshops and the drug trade.

Pawnshops have long been criticized for their seedy association with a darker side of society. As the drug crisis in America has invaded every corner of the nation, states are beginning to address the flow of money from pawnshops. A 2009 Desert News article profiled how addicts, theft, and pawnshops added to Utah’s struggle against illicit drug use. On Long Island in 2015, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone called for extensive digital tracking to break the link between addition and pawnshops.

It is ironic that in a day when a consumer cannot enter a local bank or Target without being photographed, identified, scanned, or otherwise scrutinized, that an addict has any expectation of privacy in the pawn trade. The antiquated banking and FTC regulations that keep pawnshops in the shadows of mainstream business also continue to enable and propagate the drug crisis. Whether selling personal items or stolen property, an addict should have no special protections or considerations in making a transaction that will ultimately put money in his dealer’s pocket.

Pawnshops should be regulated not only for property crimes, but also for the personal addictions that affect and destroy a significant portion of the population. States can regulate pawnshops in a manner that will not affect the business or offend the growing pawn-lobby, but will make it more difficult for addicts out to score a quick dollar.

Limiting transactions to one cash loan every 30 days would be a start, as would a 24-hour hold on any loan. Pawnshops could be encouraged or required to issue checks that would need to be cashed. With the banking considerations already in play, a pawnbroker may also need an application for a loan — much the way a bank cannot issue disbursements without a social security number, address, and credit check.

Finally, civil liability laws could be expanded to include third-party liability for pawnbrokers who provide cash to known addicts. In the same manner that a bartender may be held liable for serving an intoxicated patron, a pawn owner who is made away of a person’s addiction should be liable for that person’s death or injury in case of overdose, accident, or other catastrophe.

If America is serious about the national drug crisis, the time is ripe for a new discussion beyond Trump’s proposed methods and the empty halls of the federal agency tasked with addressing the emergency. Providing supportive resources and eliminating the money are two ways to begin combating the illicit drug problem that is plaguing our homes, schools, neighborhoods, and communities.

As many people in America have an addiction as do diabetes. We should not live in a society where governments pass laws to restrict the size of a soda to combat obesity and diabetes, but turn away when an addict walks out of a pawnshop with $100 for a fix. Too many people blame addicts for not having their “priorities straight,” but with soda-pop legislation as our best defense to the drug epidemic, maybe the people with skewed priorities are not the addicts.

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