The Trump administration is studying new policy that could allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty for drug dealers, according to people with knowledge of the discussions, a sign that the White House wants to make a strong statement in addressing the opioid crisis.
President Donald Trump last week suggested executing drug dealers as a way to make a dent in opioid addiction. Opioids killed nearly 64,000 people in 2016, and the crisis is straining local health and emergency services.
People familiar with the discussions said that the president’s Domestic Policy Council and the Department of Justice are studying potential policy changes and that a final announcement could come within weeks. The White House has said one approach it might take is to make trafficking large quantities of fentanyl – a powerful synthetic opioid – a capital crime because even small amounts of the drug can be fatal. White House officials also are studying tougher noncapital penalties for large-scale dealers.
Trump said last week that the administration would soon roll out unspecified “strong” policies on opioids. White House officials said Trump has privately expressed interest in Singapore’s policy of executing drug dealers.
“Some countries have a very tough penalty, the ultimate penalty, and they have much less of a drug problem than we do,” Trump said during an appearance at a White House summit on opioids last week.
Trump also has endorsed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s approach to the issue; Duterte’s “drug war” has led to the deaths of thousands of people by extrajudicial police killings. Last year, Trump praised Duterte in a phone call for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem,” according to the New York Times.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Katie Zezima, Josh Dawsey