West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin: We Need To Declare A War on Drugs

By Zachary Siegel 12/22/16

Maybe Sen. Manchin forgot about the drug war that's been waged for the last 40 years.

Senator Joe Manchin
Photo via YouTube

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin unabashedly deployed deeply unpopular Nixon-era rhetoric when he said that a “War on Drugs” is necessary to tackle the opioid epidemic ripping across his state of West Virginia, which has the highest overdose rate in the country

Asked what President-elect Donald Trump should do to address the rise of fentanyl and the destruction it’s causing, Manchin told CNN’s Jake Tapper, "We need to declare a War on Drugs." 

“It seems, in a lot of ways, Big Pharma is really preying on the people of your state," said Tapper, referring to a startling investigation by the Charleston Gazette-Mail, which found that 780 million opioids had poured into West Virginia over a six-year period. “What can you do about it?”

“They cannot tell me you can send nine million pills in two years to Kermit, West Virginia, with less than 400 people and someone hasn’t targeted it,” Manchin said, referring to pharmaceutical distribution companies that let opioids shower down on the state. 

It appears the people who Manchin said targeted his state includes his very own daughter, Heather Bresch, the CEO of Mylan, a pharmaceutical goliath that manufactures opioids, which also made headlines for jacking up the price of Epi-pens

Tapper did not ask the senator about the opioids his daughter’s company manufactures. 

But an even more egregious fact to go unmentioned during a news segment is that Senator Manchin received nearly $180,000 in donations from pharmaceutical companies between 2011 and 2016.  

“Hundreds of millions of pills have been sent to my state of West Virginia with only 1.8 million people,” said Manchin, frustrated over the amount of deaths his state is experiencing. “We have too much [opioids] on the market.”

Tapper, shaking his head in grim agreement, did not ask whether or not Manchin has asked his daughter’s company to hold off on manufacturing products like fentanyl patches. Nor did Tapper ask if Manchin would stop accepting tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from pharmaceutical companies. 

But familial and financial conflicts aside, Tapper did not invoke the bipartisan disdain for the War on Drugs that has led to the disproportionate imprisonment of black and Latino men. 

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.