Donald Trump has announced his plan to deal with the opioid crisis. It includes scare commercials and the death penalty for drug sellers.


Unveiling a long-awaited plan to combat the national scourge of opioid drug addiction, President Donald Trump called Monday for stiffer penalties for drug traffickers, including embracing a tactic employed by some of the global strongmen he admires: the death penalty.

“Toughness is the thing that they most fear,” Trump said.

Trumps’ ardent supporter, Sen. Tom Cotton,  chimed in with an attaboy and a seeming vow to sponsor the death penalty bill:

“More than 175 Americans die every day from drug overdoses, and yet the federal penalties for trafficking heroin and fentanyl remain far too low to stop the flow of drugs into our country. It’s good to see the President give the opioid crisis his personal attention, and I will be introducing legislation soon to make sure the people who profit off the spread of addiction receive the punishment they deserve.”

But who gets the ultimate punishment? Every low-level mule? Every street reseller? Over-prescribing U.S. physicians? Crooked pharmacists? Breaking Bad amateur chemists? Addicts who share for profit with other addicts? And speaking of addiction profits: Cigarette sellers? Whiskey merchants?


Wars on drugs have been spectacularly unsuccessful to date. The same for commercials that threaten bad outcomes for all sorts of bad behavior — be it smoking marijuana or teen sex. But there’s a group to whom this talk will appeal and Trump understands them.

There are other problems with Trump’s idea.


The Justice Department said the federal death penalty is available for limited drug-related offenses, including violations of the “drug kingpin” provisions in federal law.

It is not clear if the death penalty, even for traffickers whose product causes multiple deaths, would be constitutional. Doug Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University, predicted the issue would be litigated all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

John Blume, a professor and director of Cornell Law School’s death penalty program, said the Federal Drug Kingpin Act has yielded few “kingpins” or major dealers, mostly ensnaring mid- to low-level minorities involved in the drug trade.

Trump: Making America like the Philippines.

By the way: Trump blames the crisis on the cities and immigrants. I guess he hasn’t been to the heartland of rural Arkansas enough to understand that flyover country has a drug problem, too.