Earlier this week, it was reported that Donald Trump was in favor of giving drug dealers the death penalty, in response to the very serious opiate addiction problem in the United States. In an interview with Axios last week, an anonymous source close to Trump said that he was in favor of the approach that governments in the Philippines and Singapore have taken in the drug war.
“He says, ‘When I ask the prime minister of Singapore do they have a drug problem [the prime minister replies,] ‘No. Death penalty’. He often jokes about killing drug dealers… He’ll say, ‘You know the Chinese and Filipinos don’t have a drug problem. They just kill them,” the source told Axios.
Because of the fact that there were no official sources, the severity of Trump’s comments were disregarded by many, but just days later, Trump gave a speech at the White House where he confirmed these accusations, saying that drug dealers should face “the ultimate penalty.”
In the speech, Trump first called for legal penalties against drug manufacturers.
“The administration is going to be rolling out policy over the next three weeks, and it will be very, very strong. I’ve also spoken with Jeff about bringing a lawsuit against some of these opioid companies. I mean, what they’re doing and the way — the distribution. And you have people that go to the hospital with a broken arm, and they come out and they’re addicted. They’re addicted to painkillers, and they don’t even know what happened. They go in for something minor, and they come out and they’re in serious shape,” Trump said.
Trump then went on to advocate the death penalty for what is essentially a nonviolent crime.
“Drugs are a similar but different problem, in the sense that we have pushers and we have drug dealers that don’t — I mean, they kill hundreds and hundreds of people, and most of them don’t even go to jail. You know, if you shoot one person, they give you life, they give you the death penalty. These people can kill 2,000, 3,000 people and nothing happens to them. And we need strength with respect to the pushers and to the drug dealers…..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,” Trump continued.
Trump is very wrong on many points, firstly, as sad as it is, drug addicts make their own decisions, despite the many underlying societal and psychological factors that lead to drug abuse. People who do heroin know what they are getting into, especially now that news of overdoses and dirty batches are everywhere. Drug dealers are often blamed on the dirty batches, and while this is true, it is nearly impossible to track down who was actually responsible for cutting a drug with something dangerous. Furthermore, it is the prohibition of these drugs that are making them more dangerous, by forcing them into the black market where there is no quality control.
Also, Trump’s comments about the apparent success of draconian drug war policies are entirely false. As Reuters reported, after the death penalty for drug dealers was instituted in the Philippines, the price of heroin and crystal meth continued to drop, meaning that the streets were still being flooded with drugs. Politicians and law enforcement in the country continue to justify their crusade, saying that the thousands they kill will save millions of lives, despite the fact that they have not put a dent in the drug problem.
“There are thousands of people who are being killed, yes, but there are millions who live, see?” Albayalde, Metro Manila’s police chief told Reuters.
It is also important to mention that those arrested on drug trafficking charges are rarely ever the kingpins at the top, but mostly low-level dealers and users who get caught up in the middle.
Image: Cheriss May/NurPhoto/Getty Images.