Drugs and The Donald

By Keri Blakinger 10/23/16

Though today he’s running as a law-and-order candidate, The Donald once espoused a radically different approach to the drug war.

Drugs and The Donald
He's had a lot to say.

As Election Day draws near, here’s a quick look at all things Donald Trump and drugs—from the candidate’s own erstwhile progressive policy stances to his drug trafficker connections to the bizarre Internet accusations of his own alleged use:

He claims he is going to stop heroin addiction.

The GOP candidate has not made clear how this is going to happen, but he lobbed the promise at adoring town hall attendees back in August.

At the Ohio event, Trump fielded a question about what he’d do to address the opioid epidemic.

“If I win, I’m going to stop it,” he said, according to STAT News. Though he did not offer specifics as to how that would occur, he did claim his opponent would not be able to pull off the same feat.

“Hillary Clinton isn’t going to do that,” he said. “Number one, she’s not strong enough to do it. She wouldn’t have a clue.”

Because he’s going to “spend the money.”

In his Ohio talk, the GOP nominee did not address fentanyl or prescription painkillers, but did acknowledge that combating addiction requires funding resources. But, again, he didn’t say where the funding would go and didn’t offer any specific plan of action.

“It’s very hard to get out of that addiction of heroin,” he told the crowd.

“That’s the other thing we’re going to do: We’re going to take all of these kids — and people, not just kids — that are totally addicted and they can’t break it. We’re going to work with them, we’re going to spend the money, we’re gonna get that habit broken.”

This month, The Donald finally offered a little more info on how he plans to “spend the money.” In a statement released before a New Hampshire rally, he vowed to increase Narcan access, encourage inpatient treatment and incentivize government-mandated treatment, according to STAT News

But not on enforcing pot prohibition.

Trump has been a little wishy-washy on his positions on marijuana, but he says he supports states’ rights on bud’s legality.

"I think it's up to the states," he told NBC affiliate KUSA in July. "Yeah. I'm a states person. I think it should be up to the states, absolutely."

A few months earlier, he told Bill O’Reilly he’d seen the value of medical marijuana.

“I know people that have serious problems… and… it really, really does help them,” he said on Fox.

But when asked what he’d do to counter marijuana legalization in Colorado, he offered a vague answer.

“I would, I would really want to think about that one bill because in some ways, I think it’s good and in other ways, it’s bad,” he said.

Which is not surprising because at one point he supported legalizing drugs entirely.

Though today he’s running as a law-and-order candidate, The Donald once espoused a radically different approach to the drug war.

“We’re losing badly the war on drugs,” he said at a Florida luncheon in 1990. “You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars.”

Which would make it OK to do all that coke the Internet claims he did.

Trump sniffled his way through his first debate face-off with Hillary Clinton—and the Internet ran wild with suggestion and innuendo.

“Notice Trump sniffing all the time. Coke user?” former presidential candidate Howard Dean tweeted. The Twitterverse piled on, even going so far as to launch a parody account with the handle @TrumpSniff.

The next day, Dean—who is a medical doctor—expanded on his tweet during an MSNBC interview in which he described the candidate’s sniffling as the “signature of people who use cocaine.”

But Dean clarified that it doesn’t mean the GOP nominee is actually a coke user.

“Do I think he has a cocaine habit? I think it's unlikely that you could mount a presidential campaign at 70 years old with a cocaine habit, but it was pretty striking," he said.

A few days later, Dean apologized. But when the sniffles surfaced again at the second debate, coke jokes took over the Internet again.

A Twitter user asked Star Wars celeb Carrie Fisher whether the controversial candidate could be a coke user and she tweeted back: “I'm an expert & ABSOLUTELY."

Fisher, who has been open about her own history with the white stuff, later clarified that she doesn’t actually believe the big name on the Republican ticket is a drug user.

“He generally tells the worst truth to shock you,” she told Vulture. “I know something about this, so if he did coke, he would want you to know.”

In fact, The Donald doesn’t do drugs at all.

He’s never even tried alcohol or cigarettes, he says.

Trump’s older brother Freddy struggled with alcoholism and died in 1981, which is what prompted the Donald to stay away from the stuff.

“He would have been an amazing peacemaker if he didn’t have the problem, because everybody loved him,” Trump said of his brother in a New York Times interview published in January. “He’s like the opposite of me.”

And he is sometimes really comforting to those affected by them.

At a campaign story in Iowa earlier this year, Trump showed an uncharacteristically soft side to his anti-drug rhetoric.

Trump’s unplanned riff of sympathy poured out after the grieving father of an overdose victim turned up at a January rally, wanting to know about the real estate mogul’s plans to address the heroin problem.

"They say once you get hooked, it's really tough. In all fairness to your son, it's a tough thing. Some very, very strong people have not been able to get off it," Trump said, according to Politico. "So we have to work with people to get off it, and the biggest thing we can do in honor of your son, actually, and the people that did have problems, big problems, we have to be able to stop it."

"You just relax, OK? Yeah, it's a tough deal. Come on. It's a tough deal. What we have to do is we have to make sure that they don't get hooked because it's a tough thing. And I know what you went through."

But he’s better known for an offensive comment about the source of drugs.

One of Trump’s early moments of campaign notoriety stemmed from his off-color remarks during his candidacy announcement back in 2015.

“When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best,” he said. “They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Though he may play a bit of favorites among the people bringing in drugs.

Back in the 1980s, Trump advocated for leniency for a friend convicted of trafficking keys of coke, according to the Smoking Gun.

When Joseph Weichselbaum was set to be sentenced in 1987, Trump wrote a character reference letter, calling the two-time felon “conscientious, forthright and diligent.”

A prosecutor later said Trump and the other bigwigs who supported Weichselbaum were “unaware of defendant’s previous convictions and his extensive drug dealings.”

But whether or not Trump really knew Weichselbaum’s history, the letter created an unprecedented scenario: It appears to be the first time a Republican presidential nominee has written a pre-sentencing letter on behalf of a convicted narco trafficker, according to the Smoking Gun.

And sometimes he’s willing to give drug users second chances.

The 2006 Miss Teen USA, Tara Conner, did not lose her crown after she failed a drug test for cocaine.

"I've always been a believer in second chances. Tara is a good person. Tara has tried hard. Tara is going to be given a second chance," Trump said at the time, according to Fox News.

So Conner headed off to rehab and retained her crown.

"He did a huge service for me and he really helped me out a lot," she told the New York Daily News nearly a decade later. "Because I feel like he took such a strong step forward for the recovery movement by sending me to treatment and breaking the stigma in that way.”

Although she repeatedly stressed her gratitude for Trump’s mid-2000s act of forgiveness, the brutally honest beauty queen went on to call out the candidate for his recent drug rhetoric.

“When we throw around words like rapists and druggies it's extremely irresponsible because it adds to the stigma of addiction."

But for everyone else, there’s a wall.

The Donald’s infamous plan for a Mexican border wall—which our southern neighbors will allegedly pay for—has been both a celebrated and reviled suggestion. Although the GOP candidate has suggested a number of supposed benefits to keeping out immigrants, one is that he believes it’ll staunch the flow of drugs into the country.

“Heroin overdoses are taking over our children and others in the MIDWEST,” he tweeted in August. “Coming in from our southern border. We need strong border & WALL!”

Throughout his campaign, Trump has made similar pronouncements in speeches across the country. But, as Christopher Ingraham wrote in the Washington Post, there’s no reason to believe a border wall would actually impact the current drug problem.

Although most of the heroin seized in the U.S. does come through the Mexican border, some of it comes in by plane.

“Beefing up heroin enforcement along the southern border likely won't stop the flow of heroin into the United States. Traffickers will simply move their product via other means,” Ingraham writes, suggesting everything from planes to snail mail to submarines to “other outlandish conveyances that authorities haven’t even thought of yet.”

And, as Ingraham points out, ill-fated efforts to derail addiction by stamping out the existing supply pipeline are not a new thing.

“Trump's promise to prevent drugs from entering the country in the first place is a throwback to the drug war policies of previous decades.”

Keri Blakinger is a writer for the Houston Chronicle. Previously, she worked at the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times and has also been published in The Washington Post, Salon, and Quartz.

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.