US President Donald Trump’s plan to combat opioid drug addiction nationwide calls for stiffer penalties for drug traffickers, including the death penalty where appropriate under current law, a top administration official said on Sunday. It is a fate for drug dealers that Trump, who aims to be seen as tough on crime, has been highlighting publicly in recent weeks.
Trump also wants the US Congress to pass legislation reducing the amount of drugs needed to trigger mandatory minimum sentences for traffickers who knowingly distribute certain illicit opioids, said Andrew Bremberg, Trump’s domestic policy director, who briefed reporters on Sunday on the plan that Trump was scheduled to unveil yesterday in New Hampshire, a state hard-hit by the crisis.
The president was to be joined by US first lady Melania Trump, who has shown an interest in the issue, particularly as it pertains to her focus on child welfare.
Death for drug traffickers and mandatory minimum penalties for distributing certain opioids are just two elements under the part of Trump’s plan that deals with law enforcement and interdiction to break the international and domestic flow of drugs into and across the US
Other parts of the plan include broadening education and awareness, and expanding access to proven treatment and recovery efforts.
Trump has mused openly in recent weeks about subjecting drug dealers to the “ultimate penalty.”
The president told the audience at a Pennsylvania campaign rally this month that countries such as Singapore have fewer issues with drug addiction because they harshly punish their dealers.
He said that a person in the US can get the death penalty or life in prison for shooting one person, but that a drug dealer, who potentially kills thousands, can spend little or no time in jail.
“The only way to solve the drug problem is through toughness,” Trump said in Moon Township.
He made similar comments at a recent White House summit on opioids.
“Some countries have a very, very tough penalty — the ultimate penalty. And, by the way, they have much less of a drug problem than we do,” Trump said. “So we’re going to have to be very strong on penalties.”
The US Department of Justice said the federal death penalty is available for several limited drug-related offenses, including violations of the “drug kingpin” provisions of federal law.
It was not clear that death sentences for drug dealers, even for those whose product causes multiple deaths, would be constitutional, Ohio State University law professor Doug Berman said.
The issue would be litigated extensively and would have to be definitively decided by the US Supreme Court, he said.
Opioids, including prescription opioids, heroin and synthetic drugs such as fentanyl, killed more than 42,000 people in the US in 2016, more than any year on record, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Trump has said that fighting the epidemic is a priority for the administration, but critics say the effort has fallen short.
Trump in October last year said the crisis was a national public health emergency, short of the national state of emergency sought by a presidential commission.
“We call it the crisis next door because everyone knows someone,” Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said. “This is no longer somebody else’s community, somebody else’s kid.”
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