The Death Penalty Won’t Win the Drug War

hoto by VOCAL-NY (Voices Of Com | CC BY 2.0

This week, Axios released a story revealing that President Trump privately supports the theory that imposing the death penalty upon drug traffickers will help reduce the demand for illegal drugs. This belief is flawed in several ways, but it was apparently presented to him by the President of Singapore where there is a mandatory death sentence for the crime.

In fairness, a policy novice could examine the fact that Singapore has a very low usage rate of drugs and conclude that the death penalty for trafficking is an effective deterrent. However, the results in the other countries with the same policy are far from consistent.

Harm Reduction International released the most comprehensive study on this issue in 2015. Iran executes, by far, more people for drugs crimes than any other country. There roughly 5,000 people on death row for this crime, yet Iran has one of the highest rates of opiate addiction in the world.

The opiate addiction rate of Iran is slightly surpassed by Pakistan, which also has the same policy and roughly 100 are people awaiting the death penalty for this crime. China executes the second highest number of people for drug trafficking. Their country has a fairly low rate of domestic addiction, but it is also arguably the world’s top producer of synthetic drugs, such as fentanyl, flakka, and the precursor for methamphetamine.

Overall, there are only twelve countries that treat drug trafficking as a…

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