Recently President Donald Trump said his administration plans to introduce a policy proposal in the near future that would call for the execution of people convicted of dealing large amounts of fentanyl and fentanyl analogs. The state sanctioned murder of non-violent people who deal strong opioids would be likely to have no effect on stopping the drug trade, but it would likely result in more dead people. According to The Washington Post, both the United States Domestic Policy Council and the Department of Justice are developing potential policy changes, which include creating more draconian sentences such as higher fines and longer prison sentences, as well as allowing the execution of opioid dealers.
The president has expressed his support for the draconian drug laws of Singapore, a country which has the death penalty for drug offenses. Representatives from Singapore recently gave a PowerPoint presentation on their country’s drug policies to high ranking officials at the White House. Singapore’s inhumane drug policy is not the only one that President Trump has praised, he has also expressed his support for the drug policies of President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines. In the Philippines President Duterte has created a policy of supporting and allowing the illegal extrajudicial murder of drug users and drug dealers.
According to a report from The New York Times, President Trump told President Duterte in a phone conversation that occurred in May of last year that he thought Duterte was doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.” In an ironic twist, President Rodrigo Duterte hypocritically was (and possibly still is) a fentanyl addict. His doctor had even cut him off from the powerful opioid, as he refused to prescribe anymore to President Duterte because he believed that Duterte was abusing the drug.
“Some countries have a very tough penalty, the ultimate penalty, and they have much less of a drug problem than we do,” President Donald Trump said at a recent White House summit on the issue of opioids. During the summit, the President also rationalized the policy of executing drug dealers by saying, “If you shoot one person, you get life in prison. These people kill 1,000, 2,000 people, and nothing happens to them.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions is helping the president implement his vision for drug policy, recently telling federal prosecutors to push for the harshest penalties available in drug cases. Sessions has also directed the DEA to cut back the manufacturing quotas for the production of opioids. The Department of Justice has also formed a task force to go after the darknet fentanyl trade. Not everyone in the Trump administration is in favor of increasing criminal penalties for drug offenses. The Secretary of Health and Human Services stated during the summit that addiction should be treated as a medical issue.
In October of last year the president declared a national health emergency over the opioid epidemic. Increased restrictions on the manufacturing and prescribing of opioid painkillers has sent many people suffering from chronic pain, as well as recreational users, to switch from using pharmaceutical drugs to using street drugs like heroin and fentanyl analogs. The irresponsible adulteration of heroin with extremely strong fentanyl analogs, such as carfentanil and lofentanil, has created a significant increase in the number of opioid overdoses. One way opioid users can test their drugs to confirm the presence of fentanyl and some fentanyl analogs is by using a test strip, which is available from the harm reduction organization DanceSafe.
During the Clinton administration Congress pass legislation which allowed for the imposition of the death penalty in non-homicidal narcotics offenses. This law allows for large scale drug traffickers to be sentenced to death, even if there were no deaths related to the drug trafficking. The constitutionality of that law has never been challenged in court. It is likely the law could be challenged on the grounds of being cruel and unusual punishment, which is prohibited by the 8th amendment of the United States Constitution. In Kennedy v. Louisiana, a death penalty case from 2008, the Supreme Court left on the possibility that the death penalty may be constitutional in certain non-homicidal crimes against the state. The new policy being called for by the Trump administration would extend the death penalty to cases in which the drug dealer is far from actually being a drug kingpin. For now, it seems the Trump administration is pushing for more death, disease, and addiction, instead of pushing for more rational and evidence based approaches to battling problems related to drugs, such as the drug policies of countries like Portugal that have decriminalized drugs.