MANCHESTER, N.H. (CN) – Calling for more toughness, President Donald Trump announced his long-awaited plan Monday to combat the opioid epidemic in a speech in New Hampshire, which includes seeking the death penalty for some traffickers.
His wide-ranging proposal focuses on curbing the over-prescription of opioids, stopping the flow of drugs through border security, and a public relations campaign aimed at educating children. It also includes a controversial plan to execute certain drug traffickers.
“These are terrible people and we have to get tough with those people,” Trump said during his 30-minute remarks at Manchester Community College.
“If we don’t get tough on the drug dealers, we’re wasting our time,” he said to applause, adding that “that toughness includes the death penalty.”
Trump was joined onstage by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who promised to seek the death penalty “wherever appropriate.”
First Lady Melania Trump briefly introduced the president to the invitation-only crowd of 250 supporters and community members. It was the Trump’s first visit to the Granite State since winning the election, and his first since privately referring to the state as “drug-infested den” last year.
New Hampshire is on the forefront of the nation’s opioid crisis. It had the third highest rate of overdoses in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. None of the state’s congressional delegation attended the event, but Democratic Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan later issued their own responses.
“While there are many strong components of this proposal, this is not a crisis that we can solve just by being tougher on drug dealers – although we need to do that – and I am concerned that the president does not seem to fully appreciate that we cannot arrest our way out of this crisis,” Hassan said in a statement.
Trump also announced that the Justice Department is “looking very seriously at bringing major litigation” against major drug manufacturers. But he did highlight the charitable work of Adapt Pharma Inc., which provides the overdose reversal spray Narcan for free to high schools and colleges, going so far as to invite an Adapt executive to address the crowd.
Trump’s broad proposal later touched on ending sanctuary cities and his familiar stump for a border wall, which was met with applause and had some audience members on their feet.
“I love tough guys,” he said while praising U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. “We need tough guys.”