Donald Trump proposes death penalty for some drug dealers to battle opioid epidemic | News | DW | 19.03.2018
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Donald Trump proposes death penalty for some drug dealers to battle opioid epidemic

The US president wants to execute drug dealers as part of his plan to combat addiction. Trump will also ask Congress to lower the minimum quantity of drugs sold that triggers mandatory prison sentences.

In a proposal to fight opioid addiction scheduled for delivery in New Hampshire on Monday, US President Donald Trump will announce plans to execute drug dealers and traffickers when "appropriate under current law," Andrew Bremberg, director of the president's Domestic Policy Council, told reporters. Dealers spared the death penalty would face stiffer prison sentences under Trump's proposal.

More than 2.4 million Americans have become addicted to opioids, which include street-dealt heroin and fentanyl, but also physician-prescribed pharmaceuticals; 42,000 died using the drugs in 2016, and overdoses have become the most common cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. Opioid-related hospital visits rose 30 percent from 2016 to 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported earlier in March.

Trump's plan directs his Justice Department to prosecute doctors, pharmacies and opioid manufacturers that break the law and calls for increased research and development through public-private partnerships with other manufacturers of the drugs. The plan includes proposals for reducing opiate prescriptions by a third within three years and improving treatment for addicts. The embattled US president also plans a campaign to educate people on the dangers of opioid abuse.

'The ultimate penalty'

Trump has previously proposed capital punishment for dealers, and even praised his Filipino counterpart, Rodrigo Duterte, whose war on narcotics has led to the deaths of thousands of people, as doing an "unbelievable job on the drug problem." The Philippine president recently withdrew the country from the International Criminal Court after the tribunal opened an investigation into extrajudicial killings as part of his war on drugs.

Still, at a recent White House summit on opioid addiction, Trump mused that "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." However, changing the law would require an act of Congress, and, with lawmakers skeptical of how killing street dealers might help reduce a largely institutional addiction, Bremberg didn't say how Trump would manage to employ his own drug war's ultimate penalty.

"We will not incarcerate or execute our way out of the opioid epidemic," Senator Ed Markey, of the Democratic Party, said last week in a response typical of the president's skeptical opposition.

mkg/rt (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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