Louisiana refocuses its efforts in its ‘War on Drugs’

Jonathan Krantz, Staff Writer

In a televised address in 1989, President George H. W. Bush displayed a bag of cocaine and exposed the nation’s opioid epidemic, marking the first strike in what would eventually be dubbed the “War on Drugs.” Nearly 30 years later, in a time when more Americans die from an opioid overdose in one year than they did during the entire Vietnam War, it has become abundantly clear that the “war” is being lost. New actions performed by the state of Louisiana, however, prove that the state government is trying to correct the measures taken to fight a futile war.

Though the War on Drugs is often criticized for its restructuring of the justice system that more harshly affects those that are part of a minority or below the poverty line, the driving force of the epidemic is still not fixed by discussing this admittedly important issue.

When looking at patient health, many cities like New Orleans have taken steps to better ensure those that overdose survive. Even these measures, however, only address the symptom to a much larger disease that has ostensibly gone under the radar of government officials. That is, until recently.

Last summer, Gov. John Bel Edwards filed a lawsuit through the state’s Health Department against 17 drug companies, making Louisiana the 14th state that year to sue the corporate shills that believe the bottom line ostensibly takes precedence over national well-being.

Recently, following a dispute between Edwards and Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry, a state court granted control of the lawsuit to Landry in order to widen the scope and look at the damage done to other state agencies as well. While the actions taken against the drug companies are moves in the right direction, what is more exciting is that both sides of the aisle agree that the gains in public safety supersede the losses in donations from lobbyists.

Pharmaceutical companies argue that they are not to blame because people using drugs like OxyContin are abusing the substance and are therefore ignoring the instructions provided. Others have blamed abuses on the prevalence of the welfare state, pointing to a correlation where states that expanded Medicaid benefits also observed a sharp increase in overdoses.

These tactics may prove effective since states are taking legal action against the pharmaceutical industry for being a “public nuisance,” and are by definition breaking a minor law that could threaten “the health, morals, safety, comfort, convenience, or welfare of a community.” Since the companies are not technically breaking the law, the case will inevitably come down whether the judge presiding determines if the law is being followed but in bad faith.

The main fear many have is the possibility for corruption in the process considering the immense wealth cultivated by politicians from what is sometimes referred to as “Big Pharma.” According to the campaign finance reform organization Open Secrets, the pharmaceutical industry donated over $10 million in just the 2017-18 election cycle and is, therefore, a credible threat to a fair judicial process.

These companies desperately want to avoid a precedent of paying out states for wrongdoing, so it is not beyond belief they may do whatever they legally can to prevent a loss. The possibility of a loss is a definite possibility, but regardless, optimism is important and hopefully, states like Louisiana will see retribution for the ballooning effects of the opioid epidemic.

This is an opinion article and does not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. Jonathan is a sophomore at Newcomb-Tulane College. He can be reached at [email protected].

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