Lawrence's status as the source of New Hampshire's drug addiction scourge isn't quite as clear cut as President Donald Trump portrayed it to be, according to a researcher from the study he cited in his national speech in Manchester on Monday.
While announcing new opioid initiatives, Trump cited a July 2017 report from Dartmouth College and the National Drug Early Warning System as evidence that Lawrence played a large role in New Hampshire's drug problems. He used the Immigrant City as a key example to show why sanctuary cities should be shut down.
"Every day, sanctuary cities release dangerous individuals, drug dealers, traffickers, gang members back into our communities. They're protected by these cities," he said.
However, the study Trump referenced does not support the declarations he made this week. The report in question is a preliminary collection of interviews from a dozen first responders and just 20 drug users — a tiny sample of the more than 30,000 estimated drug users in the Granite State, according to the advocacy group New Futures.
According to UMass Lowell professor Angela Wangari Walter, who regularly conducts smaller studies like Dartmouth's to gather information for a larger research project, the preliminary results like these aren't meant to be viewed as anything other than exploratory.
As a researcher, this study, so far, leaves Walter with more questions than answers.
"Twenty consumers are not necessarily representative of the whole of the state of New Hampshire. They're 20 consumers, and they're all white," she said. "For anyone to use this data as the gospel... it's just not the way to do it."
Dr. Lisa Marsch, the study’s principal investigator, said that the study was intended to be a small snapshot of the factors causing New Hampshire's opioid epidemic, not an analysis of drug sales in both states.
"This study was not intended to be definitive information on drug trafficking," Marsch said. "I can't really answer where the sources of drugs are. This is an issue across the country, not just here, though it sounds like there are drugs from from certain areas in Massachusetts."
As Trump referenced in this speech and the study asserts "almost three-quarters (of subjects) specifically cited Lawrence, Massachusetts, as the primary gateway (for fentanyl)."
However, Lawrence was just one of the locations for drug sales named by the 20 study subjects. Boston, Haverhill, Holyoke, Methuen, Lowell, Springfield, Massachusetts and Springfield, Vermont were also named as likely drug portals.
While Trump connected Lawrence's role in the drug trade to its status as a sanctuary city, many of the cities cited by users are not sanctuary cities.
Dartmouth and Early Warning System officials began researching New Hampshire's fentanyl crisis in August 2016. The project is currently in its second phase, during which 76 drug users from the Granite State were interviewed. That report will be released within the next month.