Hello all. What a week! I spent the first half of the week in Iowa where we had over a dozen events across the state.
A poll came out recently that showed we have a LONG way to go in the state. Most Iowans still have never heard of me. We are changing that.
This week helped. We had events across the state in Mason City, Waukon, Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Boone, Clive, Des Moines, Marshalltown, Cedar Rapids, and Iowa City. The crowds were a lot bigger than they were the last time I was in the state:
Visiting Iowa was a blast. Here’s the test: if we can get 40,000+ people in Iowa fired up about our message, it will sweep the country in 2020. We are now hiring for and opening a new office in Des Moines. We are also awarding the Freedom Dividend in Iowa—if you know someone in the state who would benefit from receiving $1,000 a month, please nominate them here. I’ve already agreed to headline events in Iowa in both April and May. And it looks like I may have convinced my family that Iowa is a great place to spend Spring Break.
I am heading to New Hampshire next week for the 10th time. I love New Hampshire, too—my town hall there has been viewed over 100,000 times. Iowa and New Hampshire are like catapults that can launch a candidate all the way to the White House. In a crowded field of 15+ candidates, perhaps 5 or 6 will be considered viable after both Iowa and New Hampshire vote next February. So if you have friends in either state, reach out and tell them about me.
Both Iowa and New Hampshire, along with nearly the entire country, are struggling with opiates. A student asked me this question in Marshalltown, Iowa: “I have friends walking around my high school with fentanyl patches on their arms who are already addicted to opiates. A lot of them would never tell anyone they have a problem because they think they’d go to jail. Would you consider decriminalizing opiates? I think more people would be able to get help.”
I answered: “I’m on board with decriminalizing marijuana use—in part because it’s a safer way to manage pain for many people—but I have to look into what decriminalizing opiates would mean for Americans. I’d be open to it if it seemed like it would help us get people healthier faster.”
I’ve been looking into it. A couple other countries have taken this step and it has improved public health. Portugal decriminalized these drugs in 2001; if caught with a small amount of opiates, you have the drugs taken away and are referred to treatment and counseling. This had dramatic positive effects—today, the drug-related death rate in Portugal is five times lower than the E.U. average and one-fiftieth (2%) of the US. Portugal is not the US. But its example may be helpful.
We have an addiction crisis on our hands. More than 11 million Americans are addicted to opiates right now. 8 Americans are dying of drug overdoses every hour.
For many Americans, the progression goes from Oxycontin to heroin to fentanyl, progressively cheaper ways to get similar effects. This opiate crisis began when Purdue Pharma flooded the market with enough Oxycontin for hundreds of thousands of Americans under the pretense that it was a non-addictive painkiller. They were fined $635 million by the government for fraudulent marketing. But they made $30 billion. That means they paid a 2% fine for unleashing a plague that is killing tens of thousands of Americans each year. That’s more Americans than died in the Vietnam War.
To me, the Federal Government screwed up by turning a blind eye when Purdue Pharma was initiating this plague. We should do everything in our power to give more Americans a fighting chance to free themselves from addiction and get well. It is destroying families and communities before our eyes.
It is possible that criminalizing opiates decreases access and use. But for a public health crisis of this magnitude, the criminal justice system seems to be a terrible first resort. It pushes a lot of the activity underground and makes addicts more likely to hide their addiction. Addiction is a disease—you shouldn’t criminalize people that you are trying to help. Especially when it may be partially your fault that they got addicted in the first place.
I am increasingly open to the idea that we should explore decriminalizing opiates to some extent in order to more effectively address the public health crisis. We have to face facts. Millions of Americans are using these drugs right now. The priority should be doing all we can to help, not punishing people and pushing the behavior into the dark. Portugal may have gotten it right.
Friday night we have a rally in San Francisco—thousands of people have signed up for our biggest event yet. UFC fighter Leslie Smith will be there—so cool! We are expanding the Humanity First Tour to rallies around the country, so if you would like us to visit, please join the Yang Gang and we will come your way. We are building a movement. It will be hard to ignore crowds of thousands rallying for a human-centered economy across the country.
We are still celebrating having broken through the 65,000 individual donor threshold more than 2 months before the May 15th deadline. Thank you for making that happen! Our new goal is to get 200,000 individual donations so we make the 3rd debate in September. The DNC hasn’t released its criteria yet, but the goal is to clear whatever bar they set. Polling will be one of the criteria, so tell a friend about me today. This campaign has just begun and is growing every day.
Your fired up candidate,