The death penalty for drug traffickers: Are you for or against it?

A pro-con about Trump’s suggestion for the death penalty on drug traffickers


By Ashley Mott, Senior Graphic Design major, Arts and Entertainment editor

There has been a recent debate on whether or not drug trafficking should be punishable with the death penalty, and while I can definitely see both sides of the coin on this topic, for the sake of this argument, let me play devil’s advocate. As a girl who grew up in a small town where the number of deaths were large because of drugs that were spiked with other drugs, laced with poison or sold in doses that could cause death, this topic hits home a little harder for me.

I know that drugs are a choice and you choose it every time you do them; I won’t argue with that. However, it is an addiction; it’s something that is classified in the DSM-5 with one of the main symptoms being impaired control, or the craving to use a substance and the desire and failed attempt to cut down or get off the drug on your own.

With that acknowledgement out of the way, let me explain why I think the role that drug traffickers, specifically a Kingpin, play in the deaths of thousands of people is punishable with the death penalty. The first thing that should be noted is that in many states, drug use, possession, distribution, manufacturing and trafficking are all considered a felony.

Now, there are two things that could follow after drugs are released into the public. There can be charges of involuntary manslaughter or first degree murder.

Involuntary manslaughter would usually relate to a pawn or someone doing the dirty work. Do I think that they should get the death penalty? No, because there are accidents that happen every day where there was no malice intent.

However, the intention to spike the drugs that would cause death is intentional murder, or at least first-degree murder. In most states, first-degree murder is chargeable with life imprisonment and death row.  If this is a process that can already occur when the evidence is provided, and our legal system allows it, then there shouldn’t be this huge debate about it.

Kingpins who intentionally spike drugs and cause deaths everywhere, those are the people who can be convicted of first-degree murder. If it’s already possible to do so, then those arguing against the possibility of this law are in for a rude awakening.

I may not agree with the possibility of this law to the full extent. However, that doesn’t shut down the fact that it is already possible to try a drug trafficker with first-degree murder, with enough evidence, to be able to enact the death penalty. It is only a matter of time before it becomes easier to try them, and honestly, getting the people behind the drugs off the streets makes it harder for people to get them.

Drugs have been a hot topic for years. There has always been this “war on drugs.” Even if you don’t agree with the death penalty, you have to admit the possibility of increased punishment may be enough to keep people off the streets and lower the drug use in our population.

It may be naive to think that way, but if there’s one thing that is a basic human instinct, it’s survival. Even the threat of this new rule coming into the public eye is enough to make someone who is all about self-preservation think twice before continuing an illegal and deadly business.

There may already be ways to have the death penalty enacted, but they aren’t always known.

This law is one that could put that warning to the forefront of people’s minds.



By Duncan Cicero, Freshman Music Therapy major

A little less than a year ago, President Donald Trump issued a statement to increase punishments for drug traffickers with the goal of combating the growing opioid epidemic in the United States. Any sitting president can unilaterally make the death penalty the punishment for drug crimes that involve massive quantities of contraband or for those that generate $20 million dollars in profit.

Trump supports this decision because he claims that drug dealers contribute to the deaths of massive amounts of people.

It’s a bit puzzling that the president feels he needs to declare a new penalty as the punishment for drug related crimes. The president can increase punishments and implement the death penalty just by enforcing the already existing law and does not need a new law to be issued by Congress.

However, the Supreme Court would most likely declare this action of the president as unconstitutional. In 2008, the court ruled that capital punishment should only be used for serious crimes that involve taking the victim’s life.

While drug traffickers indirectly result in the death of people, the Supreme Court has previously ruled that those deaths must be directly caused in order to deserve the death penalty.

I do not believe that the death penalty should be used in any scenario, and it should most definitely not be used for nonviolent offenses, even those that have cascading consequences. On March 22, 2018, Trump said, “If you look at the certain countries that have the death penalty, and say, ‘How’s your drug problem?’ They will tell you, ‘We don’t have much of a drug problem.’”

That’s not a true statement, and it’s borderline barbaric. Countries such as China, Iran and Vietnam have a very high amount of drug crime and have one of the biggest problems with drug trafficking even with the use of capital punishment for drug crimes.

Even public health and criminal justice experts here in the U.S. mostly feel that death sentences for drug traffickers would not help at all. “We can’t execute our way out of this epidemic,”  Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative at Brandeis University, told the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC).

In 2019, we should not be operating on the “eye for an eye” mentality. Capital punishment has been proven ineffective, does nothing to prevent crimes and in many situations, does the exact opposite as intended.

We are simply behind the rest of the world in morality, as most countries have moved away from using the death penalty. Trump’s stance on this is becoming increasingly worrisome, and  more people should be concerned about his ideology on this issue. Trump has endorsed President Robert Duterte of the Philippines as well as Singapore’s practices for drug traffickers.

This is very controversial because both of these countries are being investigated for human rights violations, stemming from their harsh policies.

Duerte himself is responsible for the deaths of more than a thousand suspected drug dealers without any of them seeing a single day inside of a courtroom. That simply is not fair. The people who choose to buy the drugs from the dealers are just as much responsible for their death as the dealer.

Trump’s claim that the death penalty would solve the drug epidemic has no evidence behind it and makes me severely question his moral compass. Using the death penalty on drug traffickers will do nothing to prevent drug crime nor the amount of addiction our society is dealing with.