President Trump raised some eyebrows last month in a speech where he discussed how to tackle the nation's opioid epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioids have killed more than 500,000 people since 2000. Part of Trump's proposed plan, which he laid out before a supportive crowd, involves making high-volume drug traffickers subject to the death penalty. He referred to "big pushers, the ones who are really killing people."
Public health experts, however, say that this won't help, and is a step backward to the failed 1980s "war on drugs." One doctor who specializes in opioid policy research noted, "The reality is, most people who are selling drugs are suffering from opioid addiction, and they sell drugs to support their own habit."
The doctor supports stricter penalties for people who supply large amounts of fentanyl, including doctors in "pill mills" where opioids and other drugs can be easily obtained. However, he says, "We can't execute our way out of this epidemic."
A professor who has studied the opioid epidemic for over a decade says, "Criminal justice can play a complementary role in addressing the opioid crisis, but relying on the criminal justice system to address public health problems has proven unwise, costly, ineffective and often counterproductive."
President Trump has praised President Duterte of the Philippines, whose own war on drugs has reportedly included the killing of thousands of suspected drug dealers. Trump didn't mention the Philippines by name in the speech, but noted that some countries don't have a drug problem because they have "zero tolerance for drug dealers."
Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen responded to Trump's proposal by saying "The war on drugs has not worked. The last thing we need is to further criminalize the disease of addiction. We need for everyone to understand addiction is a disease, that treatment exists and recovery is possible."
If the opioid epidemic doesn't recede, calls for stricter penalties for drug-related crimes, perhaps including the death penalty, will likely continue. If you or a loved one is facing such charges, it's essential to seek experienced legal guidance.
Source: CNN, "Trump's death penalty plan for drug dealers a 'step backwards,' experts say," Wayne Drash, March 20, 2018