Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) says a lack of border security is playing a significant role in the increased use of heroin in the U.S.
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday on “America’s epidemic of heroin and prescription drug abuse,” Sessions pressed Michael Botticelli, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, on the root causes of the increased rates of heroin use.
“Mr. Botticelli, you’re supposed to set drug policy for America. You’re what they used to call the drug czar. Do you agree that reduced price, high purity, and increased accessibility of heroin are the major drivers of the recent increase in rates of heroin use?” Sessions asked.
Botticelli agreed, saying, “The availability of very cheap, very pure heroin in the United States, as well as untreated addiction, has significantly increased heroin use rates in the United States.”
According to Sessions, a key aspect of the availability of low cost heroin has been poor border security.
“The lack of enforcement at the border is a big part of this,” Sessions said, recalling his work as an assistant U.S. attorney in the 1970s prosecuting 17 small heroin cases. At the time, he said, the heroin was coming from Turkey.
Sessions continued that several years later in 1981, following a crackdown by President Jimmy Carter, he returned as the U.S. Attorney and it was a number of years before there were any heroin cases.
“Supply is important,” he said. “We can impact supply—heroin at low prices and high purity on the streets [is] dangerous, and prosecutions are critical to this. People need to go to jail who are pushing this kind of addictive power into our communities and destroying lives and families.”