An Oklahoma judge’s $572 million verdict against consumer products company Johnson & Johnson for its role in the state’s opioid crisis seems likely to be reduced on appeal.
If the opioid lawsuits have the same ending as the nationwide tobacco lawsuits of 20 years ago, the states that receive the money — certain to be in the billions of dollars — should make absolutely sure that the vast majority of the cash is spent on treatment for drug abuse and addiction.
That did not happen with the tobacco money. Mississippi, for example, settled its lawsuit in 1997 for $4 billion over 25 years, with smaller payments continuing as long as the tobacco manufacturers remained in business.
Mississippi continues to receive money from the original 25-year settlement, but lawmakers who were starved for cash didn’t wait long to start raiding the tobacco trust fund they set up. First Democrats used the money to balance the state budget, and Republicans did the same thing once they gained power in Jackson. The trust fund was emptied a few years ago.
Mississippi and all the other states in the nation are losing tens of thousands of our citizens to opioid addiction. This addiction can be treated given the right resources.