- The Washington Times - Monday, June 25, 2018

It’s not just opioids — the White House on Monday said surging coca cultivation in Colombia is sending more cocaine across the border, fueling U.S. overdose deaths.

Potential cocaine production shot up 19 percent — from 772 metric tons in 2016 to 921 tons in 2017 — as the coca plant, which is processed into the drug, eats up a bigger swath of the South American country, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

“There’s no sugar-coating things here — this is just not where we want cocaine production to be,” ONDCP Director Jim Carroll said.

Cultivation has skyrocketed in recent years — only 210 tons were produced in 2012 — and U.S. drug fighters say they’re seeing a parallel increase in cocaine use.

The number of new users increased a whopping 81 percent from 2013 to 2016, and overdose deaths involving cocaine doubled during that span.

The White House said President Trump is calling on Colombia to reverse the situation. In March, the two nations developed a plan to cut coca cultivation in half over the next five years.

The administration said it appreciates Colombia’s plans to eliminate 70,000 hectares of coca this year through manual efforts, though it wants to see “concrete results” and a variety of methods, such as aerial spraying, as part of a whole-of-government response.

Colombian President-elect Iván Duque Márquez, who will be inaugurated in August, has proposed a return to aerial fumigation of coca, which was banned in 2015 over health concerns.

Mr. Trump’s push to slash cocaine production abroad mirrors his push to halt the influx of deadly synthetic opioids from abroad.

Clandestine labs, mainly in China, are sending fentanyl through the mail and up through traditional smuggling routes from Mexico, fueling the opioid-overdose crisis.

Mr. Trump has pointed the problem as part of his get-tough rhetoric on U.S. borders and his push for a massive wall along the southern border.

“President Trump has made it clear he wants to cut the flow of all drugs across the border and into our communities,” Mr. Carroll said.

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