Today, at an event in New Hampshire to highlight the opioid overdose crisis and the administration’s proposed solutions, Trump said, “If we don’t get tough on the drug dealers, we are wasting our time. And that toughness includes the death penalty.”
But as I’ve pointed out, federal law already establishes a death penalty for certain drug trafficking crimes involving a continuing criminal enterprise grossing over $20 million or producing over 60,000 cannabis plants or 60 metric tons of marijuana.
Some of the Democrats complaining about Donald Trump’s plan to execute drug dealers voted to execute drug dealers when it was Bill Clinton’s plan.
“We will not incarcerate or execute our way out of the opioid epidemic. Extreme proposals like using the death penalty only perpetuate a harmful stigma associated with opioid use disorders,” said Democratic senator Ed Markey last week.
Yet when Markey was a Congressman, he was one of 189 House Democrats who voted for the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, otherwise known as the Clinton Crime Bill.
Title VI of that bill was The Federal Death Penalty Act Of 1994, which established that the sentence of death may be imposed for “non-homicidal narcotics offenses.”
Ten current Democratic senators, including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, voted for the Clinton Crime Bill when they served in the House.
Senators Feinstein, Leahy, and Murray – all now representing states that have legalized marijuana – voted in the Senate to approve the Clinton Crime Bill.
Twenty-two current Democratic congresspeople, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, voted yes on the Clinton Crime Bill when it passed the House.
The final vote in the House for the Crime Bill was 235-195. Just 46 of the votes for the bill were from Republicans.
In the Senate, the vote was 61-38. Democrats made up 54 of the yes votes.
It’s great that Democrats these days are finding the nerve to oppose harsher criminal penalties for what are truly matters of public health.
It would be better if they recognized how much of today’s opioid overdose epidemic owes to policies they supported under a Democratic president, then worked to reform them.