The administration of US President Donald Trump is examining new policy that could allow the death penalty for drug dealers as a way to address the country’s worsening opioid epidemic.
The US Justice Department and the White House’s Domestic Policy Council are studying potential policy changes and that a final announcement could come within weeks, The Washington Post reported Friday, citing officials familiar with the discussions.
The White House could make trafficking large quantities of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, a capital crime because even small amounts of the drug can be fatal, the newspaper said.
White House officials also are studying tougher noncapital penalties for large-scale drug dealers. Trump administration officials said Trump has privately expressed interest in Singapore’s policy of executing drug dealers. Singapore’s model is more in line with the administration’s goals for drug policy than some other countries, a senior administration official said.
Last week, Trump said that the White House would soon roll out unspecified “strong” policies on illegal drug trade.
“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.
Opioid overdoses were up 30 percent in the last year across the United States, according to a new report by the US government. Underscoring that the drug abuse epidemic in the country is getting worse.
There were 142,000 visits to US hospital emergency departments due to opioid overdoses between July 2016 and September 2017, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Tuesday.
The US Justice Department said last year it will aggressively prosecute traffickers of any fentanyl-related substance. The head of the department, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has directed federal prosecutors to pursue the most severe penalties for drug offenses.
In November, Trump declared the country’s drug crisis a “public health emergency.” He also announced an advertising campaign to combat the epidemic, but did not direct any new federal funding toward the effort. US government and healthcare officials have been struggling to stem the epidemic of overdoses, which killed more than 64,000 Americans last year alone, up from 52,000 the previous year. More than half were related to opioids.—Agencies