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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's plan to combat opioid drug addiction 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 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 and that he once referred to as "drug infested."

The president will be joined by first lady Melania Trump, who has shown an interest in the issue as it pertains to children.

Trump drew criticism last year after leaked transcripts of his telephone conversation with Mexico's president showed he had described New Hampshire as a "drug-infested den." The Washington Post published the transcripts.

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."

White House officials referred questions about the death penalty and drug traffickers to the Justice Department, which said the federal death penalty is available for several limited drug-related offenses, including violations of the "drug kingpin" provisions in 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.

Read Tuesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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  • hah406
    March 19, 2018 at 12:41 p.m.

    Whatever....stopping the drug epidemic doesn't rest on stopping the supply. It rests on reducing demand, meaning rehabilitation and treatment for addicts, and prevention efforts to keep people from starting in the first place. Much cheaper and more successful than incarceration and executions.

  • mrcharles
    March 19, 2018 at 2:06 p.m.

    there you go , another one talking logic and reason instead of the making USA even more than #1 in incarceration.

    perhaps the gop can invest in some more private prisons who wish,hope and lobby for stiffer penalties so that their profit can rise Ah capitalism in pure form. Amazing their wish for inflicting punishment instead of redemption.

  • GeneralMac
    March 19, 2018 at 3:07 p.m.

    Does anyone think drug dealers can change?

    Plenty of jobs available now that they aren't interested in applying for.

  • Illinoisroy
    March 19, 2018 at 3:33 p.m.

    GMAC, decriminalize and reduce profit margins and drug dealers might have to get a real job. The War on Drugs is a failure for the american people and windfall for private prisons.

  • GeneralMac
    March 19, 2018 at 3:44 p.m.

    Legalize heroin ?

  • RobertBolt
    March 19, 2018 at 4:04 p.m.

    Quit slow walking medical marijuana while restricting other pain meds.

  • RobertBolt
    March 19, 2018 at 4:12 p.m.

    Illicit drug dealers also oppose decriminalization of their merchandise.

  • Illinoisroy
    March 19, 2018 at 4:14 p.m.


  • HM2
    March 19, 2018 at 9:56 p.m.

    The only problem I have with the plan is the executions need to be public and broadcast live on national TV.