Politicians Want Crackdowns on Drug Dealers

Politicians want cop crackdowns on drug dealers. Experts say tough tactics  cost lives | WAMU

Excellent article by NPR journalist Brian Mann discusses a growing coalition of U.S. politicians wanting tougher police tactics used against gangs now selling fentanyl, methamphetamines and xylazine. The pro-active arrests of drug dealers have been a cornerstone of America’s War on Drugs since the 1970s.

However, new research published in the American Journal of Public Health suggests drug busts and police crackdowns on dealers may actually be making the overdose crisis worse.


The study, which underwent a rigorous peer-review process because of its controversial findings, is based on data gathered in Indianapolis, Indiana that found patterns of overdose and death that followed drug seizures in the city.

People with addiction wind up buying fentanyl, methamphetamines and other high-risk street drugs from strangers selling drugs of different potency — often with different, more dangerous ingredients.

When people experiencing severe addiction are forced to go without drugs — even for a short period of time — it can alter their level of tolerance. Begin using again and they may be more vulnerable to overdose and death.


Fear of fentanyl is adding to political pressure to get even tougher on drug dealers. The supply of street drugs is now cheaper, more readily available, and more toxic than ever before. Roughly 110,000 people in the U.S. died of fatal overdoses last year alone, a devastating new record.

Senator Cortez Masto describes her Xylazine Measure – which has broad bipartisan support – as a necessary legal tool to toughen penalties and “crack down on traffickers.”

“I can just tell you what I’m seeing and hearing from my law enforcement,” Sen. Cortz Masto told NPR. Xylazine is “becoming an emergent threat, one we need to get a handle on now and not wait to lose more lives.” ~Senator Cortez Masto


Beau Kilmer, who heads the Rand Drug Policy Research Center, agrees police should play a major role cleaning up neighborhoods where drug-dealing is rampant.

“If you can just reduce the number of dealers on the street and allow residents get their neighborhood back that could be a real benefit.” ~Beau Kilmer

Some experts on police drug enforcement tactics believe law enforcement must do much more to protect public health before drug seizures occur. That would mean more advanced planning and coordination with harm reduction groups and others focused on helping people with addiction.

“We don’t have a choice is the way I look at it,” said Brittney Garrett, the former cop who works now with a pro-reform group called the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative.

“By not having law enforcement, public health, behavioral health, harm reduction all working together, we’re going to end up with more people being harmed.”


Senate Bill 5536 was just passed on July 1, 2023. The bill criminalizes using drugs in public. It also sets the penalty for possession of controlled substances as a gross misdemeanor with a maximum confinement time of six months for the first two convictions. Any fine for any conviction is capped at a maximum of $1,000.

The bill creates a system for a pre-trial diversion program to get people into treatment. The bill requires mandatory early conviction vacation if the person in question can complete treatment or has “substantially complied” with a recovery program or similar services for six months.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a Drug Offense or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.