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Opioid Plan Includes Death Penalty     03/19 06:25

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump's plan to combat opioid drug 
addiction nationwide calls for stiffer penalties for drug traffickers, 
including the death penalty where appropriate under current law, a top 
administration official said. It's a fate for drug dealers that Trump, who aims 
to be seen as tough on crime, has been highlighting publicly in recent weeks.

   Trump also wants Congress to pass legislation reducing the amount of drugs 
needed to trigger mandatory minimum sentences for traffickers who knowingly 
distribute certain illicit opioids, said Andrew Bremberg, Trump's domestic 
policy director, who briefed reporters Sunday on the plan Trump is scheduled to 
unveil Monday in New Hampshire, a state hard-hit by the crisis.

   The president will be joined by first lady Melania Trump, who has shown an 
interest in the issue, particularly as it pertains to her focus on child 

   Death for drug traffickers and mandatory minimum penalties for distributing 
certain opioids are just two elements under the part of Trump's plan that deals 
with law enforcement and interdiction to break the international and domestic 
flow of drugs into and across the U.S.

   Other parts of the plan include broadening education and awareness, and 
expanding access to proven treatment and recovery efforts.

   Trump has mused openly in recent weeks about subjecting drug dealers to the 
"ultimate penalty."

   The president told the audience at a Pennsylvania campaign rally this month 
that countries like Singapore have fewer issues with drug addiction because 
they harshly punish their dealers. He argued that a person in the U.S. can get 
the death penalty or life in prison for shooting one person, but that a drug 
dealer who potentially kills thousands can spend little or no time in jail.

   "The only way to solve the drug problem is through toughness," Trump said in 
Moon Township.

   He made similar comments at a recent White House summit on opioids. "Some 
countries have a very, very tough penalty --- the ultimate penalty. And, by the 
way, they have much less of a drug problem than we do," Trump said. "So we're 
going to have to be very strong on penalties."

   The Justice Department said the federal death penalty is available for 
several limited drug-related offenses, including violations of the "drug 
kingpin" provisions of federal law.

   Doug Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University, said it was not clear 
that death sentences for drug dealers, even for those whose product causes 
multiple deaths, would be constitutional. Berman said the issue would be 
litigated extensively and would have to be definitively decided by the U.S. 
Supreme Court.

   Opioids, including prescription opioids, heroin and synthetic drugs such as 
fentanyl, killed more than 42,000 people in the U.S. in 2016, more than any 
year on record, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
Trump has declared that fighting the epidemic is a priority for the 
administration but critics say the effort has fallen short.

   Last October, Trump declared the crisis a national public health emergency, 
short of the national state of emergency sought by a presidential commission he 
put together to study the issue.

   "We call it the crisis next door because everyone knows someone," said 
Kellyanne Conway, a Trump senior adviser. "This is no longer somebody else's 
community, somebody else's kid, somebody else's co-worker."

   Other elements of the plan Trump will discuss Monday call for a nationwide 
public awareness campaign, which Trump announced last October, and increased 
research and development through public-private partnerships between the 
federal National Institutes of Health and pharmaceutical companies.

   Bremberg said the administration also has a plan to cut the number of filled 
opioid prescriptions by one-third within three years.

   The stop in New Hampshire will be Trump's first visit as president. He won 
the state's 2016 Republican presidential primary but narrowly lost in the 
general election to Hillary Clinton. It follows a visit to the state last week 
by retiring Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., a persistent Trump critic. Flake told New 
Hampshire Republicans that someone needs to stop Trump --- and it could be him 
if no one else steps up.


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