Drug dealers could be on death row in the future

A’sha Noble
Opinion Staff Writer
anoble@unca.edu

When you are trying to provide for your family and already have a criminal record, finding a job can be difficult. In the meantime, your family still needs to eat and basic household items are needed.

Without a job, selling drugs is can be the only option to provide enough money to support a family. You tried to do things the right way but our system has failed you. You are now doing what you feel is best in order to survive. When the President views you as a murderer it does not help your cause.

“A drug dealer will kill 2,000, 3,000, 5,000 people, during the course of his or her life. Thousands of people are killed, or their lives are destroyed, their families are destroyed. So you can kill thousands of people and go to jail for 30 days. They catch a drug dealer, they don’t even put him in jail. Think of it: You kill 5,000 people with drugs, because you’re smuggling them in and you’re making a lot of money and people are dying, and they don’t even put you in jail, they don’t do anything. But you might get 30 days, 60 days, 90 days,” President Trump said.

Trump has America thinking about and debating capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, for drug dealers.

“I don’t know if this country is ready but I think it’s a discussion we have to start thinking about,” President Trump said.

In recent interviews Trump made it very clear he wants drug dealers off of the streets and killed for their actions.

“Whether you are a dealer or doctor or trafficker or a manufacturer, if you break the law and illegally peddle these deadly poisons, we will find you, we will arrest you, and we will hold you accountable,” Trump said. “We have to get tough on those people. We can have all the blue ribbon committees we want, but if we don’t get tough on the drug dealers, we’re wasting our time. And that toughness includes the death penalty.”

This concept is not new. Trump gave China and Singapore credit for his idea during his speech. He recited a conversation between him and the leaders of these countries.

“When I was in China and other places, by the way, I said, ‘Mr. President, do you have a drug problem?’ ‘No, no, no, we do not.’ I said, ‘Huh. Big country, 1.4 billion people, right. Not much of a drug problem. I said what do you attribute that to?’ ‘Well, the death penalty,’” Trump said.

According to the Dui Hua Foundation, a human rights nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, about 2,000 death sentences were carried out in 2016. In that year alone, China executed more people than the United States since capital punishment was put in place in 1977.

Capital punishment being used in drug trafficking cases obviously is not effective. If people did not stop distributing drugs after the first few deaths they are not going to stop after the 2000th either.

According to ProCon, 1,436 people were executed in the United States from 1977 through 2016.

“Some of these drug dealers will kill thousands of people during their lifetime — thousands of people — and destroy many more lives than that. But they will kill thousands of people during their lifetime, and they’ll get caught and they’ll get 30 days in jail. Or they’ll go away for a year, or they’ll be fined. And yet, if you kill one person, you get the death penalty or you go to jail for life,” Trump said.

Most people will turn to the drugs sitting on the shelves in grocery stores and gas stations. Painkillers, bath salts, bleach, plant fertilizer, jewelry cleaner, K2, industrial glue, nail polish remover, spray paint, cooking spray, felt-tip markers and cough syrup can all be bought by anyone. There is no prescription needed to purchase these items and some can have the same effects of many street and prescription drugs, if not worse. These are all considered drugs when abused.

A common jail cell in the United States. Photo courtesy of Geoff Stearns.

Giving drug dealers the death penalty will not keep drugs off of our streets. People will always substitute drugs for another substance. The death penalty can not be dealt to someone for selling bleach and throwing in a free washcloth.

However, Trump’s language focuses less on the root issue and more on maintaining a tough on crime persona.

“This is about winning a very, very tough problem, toughness is the thing they most fear,” Trump said.

This terminology is disturbing. We should not be trying to win anything. We need to be addressing the issue at hand. If drug dealers truly feared our government and the things they are capable of doing, they would not be selling drugs to begin with.

If education and opportunities were equally available to all citizens we would not have as critical of a drug problem.  Many people are dependent on selling drugs because it is their means of survival.

Citizens know selling and using drugs are illegal, but an addiction does not stop individuals from breaking the law. The general population is also aware if you commit murder there is a chance you may receive the death penalty, yet we still have murders take place daily across the U.S.

We are also aware of the consequences associated with the use and distribution of drugs. People choose to purchase drugs and dealers should not be punished for what others choose to do. One student feels as though the we need to reconsider the capital punishment for drug dealers.

“The death penalty is something that you really need to consider and to kill people based on how you feel about drugs isn’t right. I feel like if you are a threat to society. For drug dealers it’s another’s person’s decision to buy from them. People are voluntarily buying from drug dealers and are making that choice. If you are physically murdering someone that’s a bit different.” said SJ Purcell, new media major.

When writing a majority opinion in a child rape case, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the death penalty should not apply unless a person’s life was taken.

If the U.S. does not give the death penalty for child rape it is hard to believe this would ever be carried out for the distribution of drugs. Felix Stith, an environmental science student,  does not support the death penalty for any situation.

“I definitely do not support Trump suggesting the death penalty for drug dealers. I don’t support the death penalty for anything, especially for drug dealers. It seems really excessive and I do not think that would actually cause large systemic change over a long term especially macro level,” Stith said.

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