OPINION: Trump’s ‘death penalty for drug dealers’ law isn’t going to fix the opioid crisis

by | Mar 27, 2018 | Opinion

Kasie DaSilva


Killing the problem doesn’t automatically fix the problem, especially a crisis that has been going on for decades.

The opioid crisis has been going on since the late ‘90s and has been on the rise ever since, claiming more than 64,000 lives in the U.S. in 2016. In comparison, opioid-related deaths claimed more than 2,800 people in the same year in Canada.

Overdose deaths are rising in the U.S. faster than ever, and President Donald Trump offered his opinion of what he thinks will resolve the problem this past week during a gathering in New Hampshire.

“This isn’t about being nice anymore,” he said. “These are terrible people, and we have to get tough on those people. if we don’t get tough on the drug dealers, we’re wasting our time just remember that, and that toughness includes the death penalty.”

Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte, also known as the ‘Donald Trump of Manila,’ promised during his 2016 election he would end drug and criminality within six months using all means necessary.

Not long after being elected he launched his anti-drug campaign, which rewarded police officers for catching — and killing — drug users and dealers. It has resulted in the erosion of the rule of law and extra-judicial executions in The Philippines.

Trump and Duterte have always praised each other on their political decisions, so it isn’t a surprise that now Trump wants the death penalty for drug dealers.

You can’t get a tougher sentence than death, but is it going to fix the opioid epidemic? No.

Drug dealers aren’t going to stop hustling, and doing what they need to support their addictions just because the death penalty is being dangled in front of their eyes.

Drug dealers face death every day. Street level drug dealers, who are the ones who sell drugs for cash in person risk their lives every day the leave their homes. They usually are armed just in case they have a run in with potential robbers, rival drug dealers and even sometimes customers who may not be satisfied with the product sold to them.

If the threat of getting shot by a fellow street dealer doesn’t stop them, it follows they wouldn’t be scared by an even more unlikely threat of getting caught, put on trial and eventually sentenced to the death penalty.

The death penalty would be a “what if” to drug dealers considering they face death everyday they are on the streets.

In the study, ‘The Death Penalty: No Evidence for Deterrence,’ Stanford law professor John J. Donohue and University of Michigan economics professor Justin Wolfers claim the death penalty only works as a deterrent for future crimes.

The authors said claims the death penalty saves numerous lives are not credible. They say using the same data and proper methodology could lead to the exact opposite conclusion: that is, that the death penalty actually increases the number of murders.

The opioid epidemic isn’t going to be simply fixed by killing drug dealers, according to these studies it may just make the problem worse.

It needs to be fixed at the root of the problem, the addiction.

The opioid epidemic is a public health emergency and requires a public health response. The response needs to include not only new laws, but also more funding of prevention and treatment programs.

The success rate of drug treatment very high, as only 21 per cent of patients stay sober five years following their treatment. But it works sometimes, which is better than just killing drug dealers.

If death were an effective solution, dealer-on-dealer violence would have solved this crisis decades ago, but there are always new dealers willing to replace the old.

If we really want to change anything, there needs to be a reduction in the demand those suppliers are chasing.

The opioid crisis isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but it is up to the government to start getting the death penalty out of their heads and think about the health of those they are so eager to kill.

This problem won’t just go away by killing it, we have to treat it.