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Trump administration studying policy on death penalty for drug dealers

The Trump administration is considering a new policy that would allow the death penalty for serious opioid-related crimes. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Trump administration is reportedly considering a new policy that would make drug dealers eligible for the death penalty.

The Justice Department and the Domestic Policy Council are looking into such a policy, and details could be announced within weeks, the Washington Post reported.

Why are they considering the death penalty?

It’s part of an effort to crackdown on opioid-related overdose deaths.

Last week, Trump announced his administration's plans to roll out strong policies on opioids.

“Some countries have a very tough penalty, the ultimate penalty, and they have much less of a drug problem than we do,” Trump said during a White House summit on opioids.

One possibility is making high-volume trafficking of fentanyl a capital crime, while continuing to study harsher, noncapital punishments for major drug dealers, the Post reported.

Currently, the death penalty only applies to drug-related cases that involve the murder or death of a law enforcement officer, the report noted.

Trump has said privately that he is interested in looking at Singapore’s drug policies. Officials from that country have briefed senior White House staffers on their country’s drug policies, according to published reports.

Singapore’s approach includes treatment and education in addition to the death penalty for dealers, according to the report.

Trump has reportedly said he believes that leniency is not effective when dealing with drug-related crimes. He has also said he believes children should be taught that they can die from using drugs. Even a small amount of the synthetic drug can be fatal.

Trump’s consideration of the death penalty in relation to opioid drugs boosts his reputation as being tough on illegal drugs. Under the Trump administration, Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year directed federal prosecutors to seek the harshest penalties for drug-related crimes.

Public health officials and law enforcement leaders have stressed that the harshest penalties should be reserved for major drug crimes. Treatment is the most effective way to deal with low-level users and drug addicts, they said.

Peter H. Meyers, a professor at the George Washington University School of Law, told the Washington Post he doesn’t agree with adding more capital crimes for drug dealers, but it would most likely be legal.

“It very likely would be constitutional if they want to do it,” Meyers said.

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