WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Kicking addiction: senate candidates share their plans to help West Virginia get clean as the opiate epidemic ravages the state.
Both candidates propose a mix of tough-on-crime policies for those pushing the deadly drugs, and more help for those caught in the middle of the crisis.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said over the years, experience demonstrated that tough criminal laws aimed at drug users are no match against the addictive power of opiates. “The tougher we were, we thought, ‘oh, we’re showing how tough and strong we are’,” he said, “well guess what, we never cured anyone [that way].”
Manchin said the need for more treatment is evident from the conversations he has with constituents back home. “I’ve got people begging me, ‘please arrest my daughter, my son, so I can get them into drug court and save their life.’ They want a criminal record just to save their life, that’s a shame,” he said.
Manchin proposes taxing opiate pain-killers – a penny per milligram – raising two billion dollars for treatment centers. He said the goal needs to be getting folks clean, and back into society.
Manchin’s republican challenger, current West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, said his opponent contributed to the state’s struggle by not doing more as governor. “Joe Manchin’s failed on the drug epidemic,” he said, “he was sleeping at the switch at the time that this was raging in West Virginia.”
Morrisey said he’ll hold the government and big pharma accountable for the epidemic. He points to his record of waging those battles in the courtroom as evidence of what he could do in the U.S. Senate.
He also wants to see law enforcement crackdown on dealers and traffickers. He said the death penalty in on the table for the worst offenders. “I think if it’s a drug kingpin, I absolutely think we should look at that,” he said.
The federal government budgeted six billion dollars to combat the opioid epidemic in its most recent budget. Both candidates said it’s a start, but not enough.
To hear more from the candidates, check out the video links above. Other stories from our series examining the candidates’ positions on guns, health care, working with the president, and the state’s energy future can be found in the related stories tab.