Opioid Plan Includes Death Penalty 03/19 06:25
WASHINGTON (AP) -- 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. It's 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 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 Sunday on the plan Trump is scheduled to
unveil Monday in New Hampshire, a state hard-hit by the crisis.
The president will be joined by first lady Melania Trump, who has shown an
interest in the issue, particularly as it pertains to her focus on child
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 U.S.
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
The president told the audience at a Pennsylvania campaign rally this month
that countries like Singapore have fewer issues with drug addiction because
they harshly punish their dealers. He argued that a person in the U.S. 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
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 Justice Department said the federal death penalty is available for
several limited drug-related offenses, including violations of the "drug
kingpin" provisions of federal law.
Doug Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University, said it was not clear
that death sentences for drug dealers, even for those whose product causes
multiple deaths, would be constitutional. Berman said the issue would be
litigated extensively and would have to be definitively decided by the U.S.
Opioids, including prescription opioids, heroin and synthetic drugs such as
fentanyl, killed more than 42,000 people in the U.S. in 2016, more than any
year on record, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Trump has declared that fighting the epidemic is a priority for the
administration but critics say the effort has fallen short.
Last October, Trump declared the crisis a national public health emergency,
short of the national state of emergency sought by a presidential commission he
put together to study the issue.
"We call it the crisis next door because everyone knows someone," said
Kellyanne Conway, a Trump senior adviser. "This is no longer somebody else's
community, somebody else's kid, somebody else's co-worker."
Other elements of the plan Trump will discuss Monday call for a nationwide
public awareness campaign, which Trump announced last October, and increased
research and development through public-private partnerships between the
federal National Institutes of Health and pharmaceutical companies.
Bremberg said the administration also has a plan to cut the number of filled
opioid prescriptions by one-third within three years.
The stop in New Hampshire will be Trump's first visit as president. He won
the state's 2016 Republican presidential primary but narrowly lost in the
general election to Hillary Clinton. It follows a visit to the state last week
by retiring Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., a persistent Trump critic. Flake told New
Hampshire Republicans that someone needs to stop Trump --- and it could be him
if no one else steps up.