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Drugs

Donald Trump again calls for drug dealers to be executed … and says he got idea from China’s President Xi Jinping

It was not the first time Trump had suggested executing drug dealers. Earlier this month, he described it as a way to fight the opioid epidemic in the United States

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 March, 2018, 12:30pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 March, 2018, 9:46pm

US President Donald Trump has again called for enacting the death penalty for drug dealers during a rally meant to bolster a struggling Republican candidate for a US House seat here.

During the campaign event in this conservative western Pennsylvania district, the president also veered off into a list of other topics, including North Korea, his distaste for the news media and his own election victory 16 months ago.

Trump said that allowing prosecutors to seek the death penalty for drug dealers – an idea he said he got from China’s President Xi Jinping – is “a discussion we have to start thinking about. I don’t know if this country’s ready for it”.

“Do you think the drug dealers who kill thousands of people during their lifetime, do you think they care who’s on a blue-ribbon committee?” Trump asked.

“The only way to solve the drug problem is through toughness. When you catch a drug dealer, you’ve got to put him away for a long time.”

It was not the first time Trump had suggested executing drug dealers. Earlier this month, he described it as a way to fight the opioid epidemic.

But on Saturday his call for executing drug dealers got some of the most enthusiastic cheers of the night.

As Trump spoke about policies on the issue in China and Singapore, dozens of people nodded their heads in agreement.

“We love Trump,” one man yelled.

A woman shouted: “Pass it!”

Trump was ostensibly at the rally to inject some last-minute political capital behind Republican Rick Saccone, whose race against Democrat Conor Lamb could be a harbinger of the Republican Party’s fate in the midterms.

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 earlier this month.

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.

US Federal law currently allows for the death penalty to be applied in four types of drug-related cases, according to the Death Penalty Information Centre: murder committed during a drug-related drive-by shooting, murder committed with the use of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime, murder related to drug trafficking and the death of a law enforcement officer that relates to drugs.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has directed federal prosecutors to pursue the most severe penalties for drug offences.

The Department of Justice said last year it will aggressively prosecute traffickers of any fentanyl-related substance.

Some argue executing drug dealers could have a raft of unintended consequences, such as deterring people from calling police when they know someone is overdosing.

While news of capital charges against a drug dealer would spread quickly and possibly be a deterrent, said Daniel Ciccarone, a professor of family and community medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, it could also drive drug users underground.

“It will keep people from any positive interface with police, any positive interface with public health, any interface with doctors,” he said, noting that it could lead to fewer people receiving treatment for their addictions.

“People will become afraid and hide. They won’t trust the police, and they won’t trust the doctor either.”

Ciccarone said there is also concern that the laws could ensnare low-level drug dealers, many of whom do not know that their products contain lethal amounts of opioids and some of whom are battling addiction.

Regina LaBelle, deputy chief of staff at the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the Obama administration, said that current laws that allow for drug dealers to be charged with a capital offence haven’t had a deterrent effect.