Trump Suggests Death Penalty for Drug Dealers

By: - March 2, 2018 12:00 am

President Donald Trump speaks during the White House Opioid Summit at the White House this week.

Evan Vucci/The Associated Press

In brief remarks at a White House summit on the opioid crisis this week, President Donald Trump suggested the death penalty for drug dealers. 

“Some countries have a very, very tough penalty — the ultimate penalty,” he said. “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.” 

Lamenting that drug dealers “kill hundreds and hundreds of people, and most of them don’t even go to jail,” Trump said: “The answer is you have to have strength and you have to have toughness. The drug dealers, the drug pushers are — they’re really doing damage. They’re really doing damage.” 

Trump has expressed admiration for Philippines President Roderigo Duterte, whose extrajudicial crackdown on suspected drug dealers has drawn international criticism. 

His comments came after two hours of presentations from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, that highlighted the administration’s current efforts to combat the nation’s drug epidemic, which is killing more than 115 Americans every day. 

Trump said the administration would be announcing new policies to combat the opioid crisis in the next three weeks. He also said his administration plans to sue opioid companies. “I think it’s very important because a lot of states are doing it, but I keep saying, if the states are doing it, why isn’t the federal government doing it?” 

On the administration’s policies on addiction treatment, Azar stressed that his department was working on policies aimed at increasing the number of providers that offer medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction. Right now, he said, only one-third of all providers offer Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs that eliminate cravings for opioids.                                             

“That’s unacceptable,” Azar said. “There are plenty of approaches. But we know this one works and one-third is not enough.” 

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Christine Vestal

Christine Vestal covers mental health and drug addiction for Stateline. Previously, she covered health care for McGraw-Hill and the Financial Times.