President Donald Trump sparked outrage last March by proposing to execute convicted drug dealers in order to combat the opioid crisis that killed over 49,000 Americans in 2016 alone. Now a coalition of over 140 organizations have banded together to condemn Trump's lethal drug policy.
"If we don't get tough on the drug dealers, we are wasting our time," Trump told a New Hampshire crowd last March while debuting his controversial drug strategy. "And that toughness includes the death penalty," he added. "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."
But it's not going to happen by imposing the death penalty either. Not according to a coalition of over 140 drug-policy experts and other activist groups, who recently released a statement that dismantles Trump's rationale for executing drug dealers.
"President Trump's rationale for this policy is premised on falsehoods," the statement declared while noting that the commander-in-chief has based his policy on the flawed examples of China, Iran and Singapore. "China is a leading source for black market fentanyl and is a major exporter of methamphetamine to the Philippines. Iran has a growing addiction rate from widely available Afghan heroin. Both countries have scaled back their use of the death penalty for drug offenses in recent years, and both have invested significantly in harm reduction programs like syringe exchange and opioid substitution therapy."
Used syringes collected at a needle-exchange clinic in Vermont.
The statement also slammed Trump's praise for Singapore, which has allegedly used misinformation to support its hardline stance against drug traffickers.
"The other country President Trump has cited in arguing this position is Singapore. However, the government of Singapore has used essentially faked data to defend its draconian policies to its people and at the UN," the statement claimed. "Singapore has drug issues like every other country, and in some ways drug use is becoming more open."
Alternative Drug Strategies
Rather than following those flawed models, the coalition is calling on Trump to pay attention to countries like Portugal, which saw a dramatic decrease in opioid abuse after decriminalizing all drugs in 2001.
The coalition also called out Trump for ignoring the recommendations of his own opioid commission - a move that they consider nothing more than playing politics with the lives of opioid addicts.
"We regret that President Trump has lightly set aside the recommendations of his Presidential Commission on Opioids, which called for public health approaches like medication assisted treatment and the overdose antidote naloxone. Along with the ghastly specter of executions that the president has conjured, there is a cost in lives already today through the administration's politicization of this issue."
And although America has not adopted the strategy of executing drug offenders (and may never take that step), the coalition argued that Trump already has blood on his hands because of his position on the subject, which has allegedly led other countries to put offenders to death.
"On at least two occasions [during the 2016 campaign], President Trump praised Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody drug war, in which perhaps 20,000 people have been killed extrajudicially in less than two years. These comments by a US president may have contributed to the initiation of extrajudicial drug war killings in Indonesia and Bangladesh, or to officials in Malaysia and Turkey calling for similar measures."
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte
That blood will also be on the hands of Democrats as well as Republicans in Congress if they do not oppose Trump's policy, the coalition added.
"History will judge many of our leaders, not solely the president, should a turn to social barbarism occur during their watch," they warned. "We call on Republicans and Democrats in Congress to clearly repudiate these words by President Trump; and we call on Attorney General Sessions to rescind his directive encouraging prosecutors to follow that lead."
But don't expect them to embrace a progressive drug policy. After all, these are the same lawmakers that still define cannabis as a drug that has no medical value and is as dangerous as heroin.