In a White House summit, President Trump suggested that executing drug dealers could help solve the opioid crisis, reports the Washington Post. The administration billed the event as a way to measure its progress in combating the nation’s drug problem. “Some countries have a very tough penalty, the ultimate penalty, and they have much less of a drug problem than we do,” Trump said. He said that the administration will roll out unspecified “strong” policies on opioids over the next three weeks. White House officials said the administration is considering whether to make trafficking large quantities of fentanyl a capital crime because of the drug’s potential to kill so many. “If you shoot one person, you get life in prison,” Trump said. “These people kill 1,000, 2,000 people, and nothing happens to them.”
At the summit, cabinet secretaries talked about combating the opioid epidemic with treatment, and law enforcement officials discussed efforts to disrupt the supply chain for heroin and fentanyl in Mexico and China. Trump’s emphasis on criminal penalties stands in contrast to the focus on treatment by some of his cabinet secretaries and many fighting the epidemic. A White House official said Trump has expressed interest in Singapore’s policy of executing drug dealers. He has endorsed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, whose “drug war” has led to the deaths of thousands of people by extrajudicial police killings. Last year, Trump praised Duterte for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem,” according to the New York Times. Trump’s comments alarmed some who work in public health. “We’ve tried enforcement before and interdiction … for many years with the war on drugs, and it’s been completely unsuccessful,” said Andrew Saxon, a psychiatry professor at the University of Washington.