It seems President Donald Trump's bright idea to execute drug dealers wasn't just an effort to recapture the news cycle from Stormy Daniels after all. In a memo issued by the Department of Justice on Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff "Racist Elf" Sessions instructed federal prosecuters to seek the death penalty in some drug-trafficking cases.
The opioid epidemic has inflicted an unprecedented toll of addiction, suffering, and death on communities throughout our nation. Drug overdoses, including overdoses caused by the lethal substance fentanyl and its analogues, killed more than 64,000 Americans in 2016 and now rank as the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. In the face of all of this death, we cannot continue with business as usual.
Drug traffickers, transnational criminal organizations, and violent street gangs all contribute substantially to this scourge. To combat this deadly epidemic, federal prosecutors must consider every lawful tool at their disposal. This includes designating an opioid coordinator in every district, fully utilizing the data analysis of the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, as well as using criminal and civil remedies available under federal law to hold opioid manufacturers and distributors accountable for unlawful practices.
In addition, this should also include the pursuit of capital punishment in appropriate cases. Congress has passed several statutes that provide the Department with the ability to seek capital punishment for certain drug-related crimes. Among these are statutes that punish certain racketeering activities (18 U.S.C. § 1959); the use of a firearm resulting in death during a drug trafficking crime (18 U.S.C. § 924(j)); murder in furtherance of a continuing criminal enterprise (21 U.S.C. § 848(e)); and dealing in extremely large quantities of drugs (18 U.S.C. § 3591(b)(1)). I strongly encourage federal prosecutors to use these statutes, when appropriate, to aid in our continuing fight against drug trafficking and the destruction it causes in our nation.
This is a terrible idea. Sessions, who seems to be getting his info from COPS instead of the Centers for Disease Control, is mistaken that "drug traffickers, transnational criminal organizations, and violent street gangs" are to blame for the rise in opioid use in the United States. Most public-health experts attribute the rise in opioid use to doctors over-prescribing opioids based on faulty and misleading data on addiction rates provided by drug representatives. Take Williamson, West Virginia, where out-of-state drug companies shipped nearly 21 million prescription painkillers to a town of 2,900 residents and two pharmacies. That's more than 7,200 pills per person. Is Trump going to execute the pharmacists, too? How about the drug reps and CEOs who pushed them?
Besides, there is no evidence that the death penalty actually deters crime. What it does do is make the United States look cruel and draconian to the rest of the world. It's both inhumane and uncivilized for the state to execute human beings, which may be why the federal government hasn't done it for 15 years. What year is it, anyway? 1?
The way to solve the opioid crisis is to get to the root of it—and the root of substance abuse is often poverty, boredom, unemployment, fragile family and community bonds, and a lack of options in life. Rather than executing the pill pushers, the government should be solving those problems. Instead, they are making them worse.