Va and WVA Attorneys General call drug cartels terrorist organizations

October 16, 2023
Opioid Epicdemic

Declaring that drug cartels are terrorist organizations and classifying the drug fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction are among the ways the attorneys general of Virginia and West Virginia want to address their states’ opioid epidemics.

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey visited local dignitaries and spoke Wednesday during the Opioid Crisis of the Two Virginias forum at Bluefield University.

Addressing an audience at the university’s Harman Chapel auditorium, Miyares and Morrisey took turns speaking about widespread opioid addiction in the states they serve.

“Our country is in an invisible war and there have been causalities,” Miyares said, adding that about 180,000 drug overdoses were reported across the nation last year.

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“How did we get to this moment?” he stated. The opioid addiction started when pharmaceutical companies came to Virginia and West Virginia “and treated us like a chemistry tests” by promoting a new painkiller and assuring officials and physicians that it was not addictive.

Now it’s known that this drug, oxycodone, contains “some of the most addicting chemicals known to man and we saw an explosion of addiction in southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. Communities where people felt safe to leave their doors open saw an explosion of crime due to addiction,” Miyares said.

It became the job of the attorney generals in both Virginia and West Virginia to sue major pharmaceutical companies so they could not profit from misery. These lawsuits resulted in some of the largest settlements in the nation’s history, Miyares said. Over a billion dollars came to Virginia alone. The next step is to make sure this money is not wasted and, instead, spent of effective ways to deal with the opioid epidemic.

The addiction crisis is also fueled by drug cartels, Miyares stated. Chemicals used in cartel drugs come from China, fueling what Miyares called “chemical warfare.” The drug made by the cartels, fentanyl, is 50 times stronger than heroin and used to make counterfeit drugs. He recalled three teenagers who died after taking what they thought was Xanax; the pills were counterfeits laced with fentanyl.

“Virginia has been ravaged,” Miyares said. “West Virginia has been ravaged as well.”

Miyares added that he, Morrisey and other attorney generals have “begged the White House” to declare that drug cartels are terrorist organizations and declare that fentanyl is a weapon of mass destruction. These moves would allow law enforcement to use tools that are now employed against terrorists.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey praised Miyare’s work and said it was good to work with him on so many issues the states have in common.

“It really is a pleasure to be here today to talk about the drug epidemic because if there’s one issue that we’ve been working on in West Virginia since I became AG back in 2013, it’s been the drug epidemic,” Morrisey said. “I came to the AG’s position as an old healthcare lawyer. I handled a lot of healthcare regulatory work, I worked on Capitol Hill where we have to write legislation public health, on Medicare and Medicaid, but really had never worked on opioid issues before.”

The Attorney General’s Office started organizing and later formed its first drug fighting unit, he said.

“And what I realized then is that the drug epidemic is one of the great challenges of our time,” Morrisey said. “It’s not something that should be partisan in nature at all. It’s something where everybody has a common experience. I bet if I asked everybody in this room if you know someone who’s died from the drug menace or know somebody who has been touched in some way, a family that’s been harmed, every single one of us would raise our hands. We’ve all experienced this in a very unique and personal manner.”

And that’s why I think it’s such a important issue for states attorneys general because we’re charged with protecting our citizens from the ravages of folks who would break up our families, violate our laws and destroy our Constitution, and the drug epidemic is no exception to that rule,” Morrisey said.

Morrisey recalled how he brought eight families that lost loved ones to opioids or fentanyl to Charleston and listened to their stories and the challenged they faced.

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“I listened and I listened and I listened, and more importantly, I learned,” he said. “It’s important for people who are in public office to take this problem on aggressively. I sometimes have people say ‘Morissey, why do you spend so much time on the drug epidemic?’ and I say because we can’t afford to let another generation fall prey to senseless death.

“This is a moral challenge of our times, and the Virginias are going to respond – West Virginians and Virginians,” Morrisey added.

Morrisey said he also went to the border with Mexico and saw firsthand how drugs come into the country and how they make their way to Virginia and West Virginia.

Like Miyares, Morrisey said the Biden Administration needs to classify fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction and single out drug cartels, but also step up pressure on China and Mexico to address the drug epidemic’s supply side.

Both West Virginia and Virginia are working to spend the money won from pharmaceutical manufacturers wisely, Morrisey said. Portions of it will go to municipalities and counties while the new West Virginia First Foundation will help fund efforts on local levels to abate the impact of the opioid epidemic.

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