President Donald Trump addressed his supporters in Pennsylvania, where along with giving insulting nicknames to his critics, he also revisited his policy idea pertaining to combating drug dealers in the country.
The idea of declaring death penalty for the drug dealers was picked by the POTUS from the leaders of the Philippines, China and Singapore. Trump has been a fervent advocate of showing no mercy to drug dealers — especially in the wake of the opioid crisis.
"The only way to solve the drug problem is through toughness," Trump said, according to The Washington Post. "When you catch a drug dealer, you’ve got to put him away for a long time.”
Unfortunately for the president, the kind of prosecution he is seeking for the drug dealers has very low chances of turning into a law in the U.S.
Under the current law, some drug-related murders are punished with the death penalty. But for other less severe cases, there are a lot of legal obstructions, such as costly trials and the issue of whether capital punishment is morally justified.
However, even if these administrative difficulties were not there, experts believe that such punishment will backfire as instead of curbing the drug dealers, it will boost them economically.
"It enables the drug traffickers to charge a higher-risk premium," Sanho Tree, program director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, told Refinery29. "This is what makes relatively worthless agricultural and chemical commodities that are minimally processed worth more than their weight in gold."
Tree pointed out in case the death penalty is imposed, dealers will charge more because then they would be putting their lives at stake. It will also filter out the competition, as the weak dealers will bow out, leaving space for the high-level traffickers to dominate.
"The types of people we typically capture when we keep escalating the drug war this way are the people who are dumb enough to get caught," Tree further elaborated. "We've had a Darwinian evolution of the drug trade at a spectacular velocity because we keep thinning out the herd. They thrive because we've done two things to help them: number one, we've picked off their competition for them, thereby opening up that economic space. Number two, by trying to restrict the supply of drugs on the street, the demand remains constant, thereby driving up their prices and profits."
There have been several instances in the past that further confirmed such penalties have done little to solve the problem in a long run. The decades following the U.S. crackdown on illegal drug dealers are marked by low-level offenders getting behind the bars while high-level traffickers dodged authorities.
Daniel Ciccarone, a professor of family and community development at University of California, San Francisco, expressed his concern for citizens if such stringent penalties are imposed.
"People will become afraid and hide. They won’t trust the police, and they won’t trust the doctor either,” the professor said.
Tree also shed light on the conditions in the Philippines, where President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs has killed between 5,000 and 20,000 people.
"The number of drug so-called addicts — originally, they said it was 1.8 million, then President Duterte came up with the number of 3 million, then 4 million," Tree said. "Now his foreign secretary has said 7 million users. The more people they've killed, the number of users keeps going up."
This goes to show that Trump, who holds Duterte in high regard and has praised him for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem” in Philippines, is just oblivious the reality of capital punishment.
Tree also has an alternative for Trump to consider if he wants to tackle the problem of drugs effectively.
"It's worth looking at [Portugal]," Tree added. "The numbers are exceedingly good, and they have had more success than the tough drug-war countries in the EU."
Portugal has been able to reduce its number of heroin users and overdose fatalities by increasing the availability of treatment and harm reduction services.
Tree primarily aims to alter the perception of authorities where the latter categorizes drug users as criminals. He believes instead of criminalizing the victims, they should be treated.
"It doesn't make sense to punish people if you believe they're primarily hurting themselves," Tree concluded.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters, David Becker