Trump proposes death penalty for drug dealers as part of anti-drug campaign

In a throwback to the "Just Say No" message of the Reagan era, the president expresses a heavy handed approach to national drug policy

President Donald Trump speaks about his plan to combat opioid drug addiction at Manchester Community College in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

President Trump believes that executing drug dealers will somehow solve the opiate crisis, so he has proposed imposing the death penalty for certain drug dealers. But his rhetoric sounds like a throwback to an 80s White House policy that didn’t work.

On Monday, the president argued that the federal government is “wasting our time” if it isn’t willing to put some traffickers to death.

“This isn’t about being nice anymore,” Trump told a crowd in New Hampshire, “These are terrible people, and we have to get tough on those people. We can have all the blue-ribbon committees we want. But if we don’t get tough on the drug dealers, we’re wasting our time — just remember that, we’re wasting our time — and that toughness includes the death penalty.”

The Prez’ Punitive Plan

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Trump went on to say that since dealers “will kill thousands of people during their lifetime” putting them to death was a reasonable way to end their reign of terror.

“This is about winning a very, very tough problem and if we don’t get very tough on these dealers, it is not going to happen, folks,” he warned.

Trump’s approach would be three-pronged: reducing demand through education, cutting off the flow of illicit drugs and saving lives by expanding opportunities for evidence-based addiction treatment.

He also vowed to back policies increasing access to the opioid overdose antidote naloxone, highlighting a new high-profile, “large-scale” advertising campaign meant to discourage America’s youth from ever trying drugs in the first place.

READ MORE: Washington Senate votes to abolish death penalty

Been here before

Public health experts aren’t thrilled with this drastic gameplan, with many pointing out that it’s just a repackaging of the failed “Just Say No” policy popularized during President Reagan’s 1980s War on Drugs.

“We can’t execute our way out of this epidemic,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative at Brandeis University told CNN. “To be talking about the death penalty sounds to me like a step backwards.”

“Criminal justice can play a complementary role in addressing the opioid crisis,” said Dr. Guohua Li, a professor of epidemiology and anesthesiology at Columbia University also told CNN reporters, “but relying on the criminal justice system to address public health problems has proven unwise, costly, ineffective and often counterproductive.”

READ MORE: Supreme Court looks at life sentences for juveniles

Say what?

During Monday’s speech even Trump acknowledged that some Americans may not be ready for his death penalty proposal.

“Maybe our country is not ready for that. It’s possible … and I can understand it,” he said, later contradicting himself by stating, “Although personally I can’t understand that.”

“The best way to beat the drug crisis is to keep people from getting hooked in the first place,” the President continued. “This has been something I have been strongly in favor of — spending a lot of money on great commercials showing how bad it is.”

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