Commentary

You cannot put a price on the value of life

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As your Governor, I will do everything within my authority to prevent deadly drugs from killing Mainers.

Recently, I informed the Federal Highway Administration that Maine will follow federal law and suspend driver’s licenses from those who are convicted of a drug-related offense.

Many legislators, including Democrat Speaker of the House Sara Gideon, disagreed with me. But I am adamant we must do more to deter the influx of out-of-state drug-trafficking into Maine.

The Legislature could have conformed to this federal law during the past session, but they chose to ignore it—even after I advised them that we would lose nearly $13 million in federal funding.

By ignoring this issue, the Legislature has neglected the health and safety of Mainers across our state who are affected by the wrath of drug addiction and abuse.

While Maine is not in compliance with federal law, I will remain committed to addressing the drug problem facing our State. Maine law enforcement is serious about cracking down on illegal drugs crossing our border, and we will take every step necessary to save lives.

When it comes to battling addiction, we must be willing to step outside the box. Our administration will continue to monitor treatment programs and adjust them if they are not adequate to truly help people recover.

We also are piloting a vivitrol project in the Penobscot County Jail to help inmates and former inmates stop using opiates. By eliminating withdrawal symptoms, this medication can neutralize opiate cravings and help maintain abstinence in an effort to prevent relapses.

The drug epidemic we face as a state is something I’ve been talking about since being elected your Governor.

Last year, Maine spent $80 million in taxpayer dollars on substance abuse treatment and prevention. This doesn’t even begin to account for the cost of substance abuse in our families and jails, the cost of public safety or the cost of charity care in our hospitals.

More than 1,000 babies were born affected by drug use last year, and there were 378 overdose deaths—more than one a day.

Organized drug gangs are flooding the state with fatal drugs like heroin and carfentanil.

In 2014, our administration was able to get the Legislature to fund more Drug Enforcement Agents, but even that came after a fight with Democrats.

There are reasons I am passionate about this fight. If Democrats in the Legislature want to make a difference, then they too must understand the importance of having the ability to punish drug-trafficking criminals.

Furthermore, drinking while driving is a threat to public safety, as well and it is on the rise in Maine. As I stated in more than one veto message this legislative session, I am concerned the Legislature is not taking seriously the risks to the public of increased drug and alcohol use, particularly while operating a motor vehicle.

I want people to be free from their addiction—I want them to get their lives back. When Democrats complain we are losing federal funding for not complying with federal law, my response will always be the same: you cannot put a price on the value of life.

About Paul LePage

Governor Paul LePage (R) has served as the 74th Governor of Maine since 2011. Prior to his time as governor, LePage served as the general manager of Marden's and as the mayor of Waterville.

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