US president Donald Trump’s plan to combat opioid drug addiction calls for harsher punishments for drug traffickers, including the death penalty, a White House official said.
This is a fate for drug dealers Mr Trump has been highlighting publicly in recent weeks.
The US leader 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, according to Andrew Bremberg, Mr Trump’s domestic policy director.
Mr Trump is scheduled to unveil his plan in New Hampshire, a state hard-hit by the crisis and a place he once referred to as “drug infested”.
The president will be joined by first lady Melania Trump, who has shown an interest in the issue as it pertains to children.
Mr Trump drew criticism last year after leaked transcripts of his telephone conversation with Mexico’s president published in the Washington Post showed he had described New Hampshire as a “drug-infested den”.
Death for drug traffickers and mandatory minimum penalties for distributing certain opioids are just two elements under the part of Mr Trump’s plan that deals with law enforcement and interdiction to break the international and domestic flow of drugs into and across the US.
Other parts of the plan include broadening education and awareness, and expanding access to proven treatment and recovery efforts.
The only way to solve the drug problem is through toughnessUS president Donald Trump
Mr Trump has mused openly in recent weeks about subjecting drug dealers to the “ultimate penalty”.
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 US can get the death penalty or life in prison for shooting one person, but 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,” Mr Trump said in Moon Township.
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.
“So we’re going to have to be very strong on penalties.”
White House officials referred questions about the death penalty and drug traffickers to the justice department, which said the federal death penalty is available for several limited drug-related offences, including violations of the “drug kingpin” provisions in 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. Mr Berman said the issue would be litigated extensively and would have to be definitively decided by the US supreme court.