The word in Trump World is that the big guy’s solution to drug addiction is to knock off the drug dealers. And there we were thinking all we needed was a wall. As he often does, he floated the idea as a joke. (From Axios)

He often jokes about killing drug dealers… He’ll say, ‘You know the Chinese and Filipinos don’t have a drug problem. They just kill them.’

And ISIS executes gays.

What started as a joke has possibly hardened into a serious policy. So let’s have a look at it. As with so many things Trump, the policy has a superficial logic to it. But like the wall and arming teachers, it doesn’t bear scrutiny. The ‘just execute all the drug dealers’ is a simplistic solution to a complex problem.

It’s a great sound bite, but naive. For instance, how do we get the machinery of death up and humming? How can we make it do what it hasn’t done in decades? Capital punishment was once widespread. It has fallen out of favor in the civilized world. In the US we reserve it for certain murders and hardly ever use it.

In 2016, 17,250 Americans were murdered — but only 20 executed. Currently, the average stay on death row is 18 years. What would it become if you add in drug dealers?

The process of killing a criminal is slow and expensive. The law and order types like to have it so they can say they are doing something, without actually having to do something. And as a strategy to address crime, it is irrelevant.

In less civilized places summary execution is still a mainstay. And it is those jurisdictions and their capricious approach to civil rights that have so attracted Trump. But America is still bound by constitutional niceties. Trump may like to shoot suspected drug dealers in the streets but American judicial philosophy calls that third-world barbarism.

Even Trump himself acknowledges this:

Trump has said he would love to have a law to execute all drug dealers here in America, though he’s privately admitted it would probably be impossible to get a law this harsh passed under the American system.

The problem with Trump’s philosophy is more than just its impracticality. Focusing on punishment misses the point entirely. It does nothing to cure addiction. On the other hand, if there were no demand for illegal drugs there would be no illegal drugs. And surely that points to a better approach than playing whack-a-mole with drug dealers.

And that’s what it would be. There is too much money in the drug trade to think that the death penalty — even if it were widespread and sped up — would dissuade people from pursuing the cash. Let’s face it. The business already has a high mortality rate and no shortage of applicants for open positions.

So the critical question becomes: How do you reduce the demand for illegal drugs? You focus on treatment. Including such controversial measures as heroin-assisted treatment and supervised injection rooms. The philosophy is to keep addicts alive and in touch with healthcare workers. In addition, most first world countries provide cost-free addiction treatment as part of their national healthcare program.

Our pursuit of drug policy as a criminal justice matter hasn’t always been the goal. It wasn’t until the 1930s that drugs became a focus of federal law. And it took until 1970 and the passage of the Controlled Substance Act before the War on Drugs really got going. That endless and expensive campaign hasn’t worked. And neither will capital punishment.


Fighting a ‘War on Drugs’ Is Pointless. We Have to Fight a ‘War on Addiction’

October 30, 2017

At 3 AM on Sunday morning, Carlos Andrade 22, stepped outside of the family’s Brooklyn home to smoke a cigarette with his father Joseph Andrade, 44. An hour later both he and dad were dead from a heroin/fentanyl overdose. They are mourned by their family and friends, but to everyone else, they are just two more names in the list of […]

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Trump Declares a National Opioid Emergency. Now What?

August 10, 2017

Donald Trump declared opioids a national health emergency – but did so two days after his Secretary of HHS said that it was premature to do so. An administration about-face which raises questions about Trump’s sincerity – if Trump’s lack of follow through on everything wasn’t already enough to cause doubt. Add in the fact that […]

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Why Are We Addicted to Treating Addiction as a Crime?

March 20, 2017

What would be the best way to solve addiction in this country? You don’t know the answer? Or do you have the wrong answer? You are not alone. The architects of the “War on Drugs” are equally ignorant. A century ago we decided that drug addiction is a crime. Which is an odd – and unique […]

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Really? 5.13.15 – Denominals; Pot, Evolution & the Duggars; Iowa; Books & Bombers.

May 12, 2015

“People are never so completely and enthusiastically evil as when they act out of religious conviction” ― Umberto Eco. A ‘denominal’ is a verb that has been formed from a noun. This headline has an example: “Idaho teacher wishes someone would ‘Ray Rice’ non-Mormon who wants to be school president.” She has cleverly taken the […]

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Really? – 2.17.15. – Ignorance shouldn’t be contagious; Is money drowning politics?; Heroin’s new geography; Dr. Strangelove resurfaces in Arkansas.

February 16, 2015

Ignorance is a celebration. Anti-intellectualism is a badge worn by conservatives with pride. How many politicos do we need to hear say “I’m not a scientist” without consulting a scientist, before we suspect that ignorance is their shield? Kanye West has added his voice. I do not know West’s politics, but he is a soul mate […]

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The Stupidity of Supply-Siders.

October 14, 2014

“When a management with a reputation for brilliance tackles a business with a reputation for bad economics, it is usually the reputation of the business that remains intact.” – Warren Buffet. Life is full of transactions between those who have stuff – and those who want stuff. In economic terms, deals are struck between suppliers and […]

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Really? 7.7.14 It’s only bad when Obama does it; Perry ignores Jesus; Confused thinking on drugs; Is gluten-free baloney?

July 7, 2014

Republicans have short memories. John Boehner explains that the House will sue Obama for overstepping his bounds by taking executive actions. Never mind that Reagan did it, Bush I did it, Clinton did it and Bush II did it, when Obama does it it’s too much – why now? What seems illegal is that Democratic […]

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Really – 6.3.14 – Heroin in Louisiana; Pot in Colorado; Catholic Odium; A GOPer Cheats; Ted Cruz is a Poodle.

June 3, 2014

Louisiana misses an opportunity to address heroin use. Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) signed a bill that increases maximum and minimum penalties for heroin dealing – in reaction to an increase in heroin use in the Pelican State. No doubt the law and order types feel “mission accomplished”. But if the aim is to reduce heroin […]

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