DOJ plans to seek death penalty in drug overdose cases when 'appropriate'

Report: President Trump to Release Opioid Plan Monday in New Hampshire

The administration aims to cut opioid prescriptions by one-third within three years by implementing a "Safer Prescribing Plan".

The president will reportedly release his strategy during a visit to New Hampshire Monday, a state where residents have been hit hard by addiction issues.

Kellyanne Conway, who was also on the call, called the opioid crisis a non-partisan "crisis next door" and said resolving the epidemic is a priority for the administration.

Trump floated the death-penalty plan this month at a White House gathering focusing on opioid abuse, saying drug traffickers "are killing hundreds and hundreds of people". "These people can kill 2,000, 3,000 people and nothing happens to them".

The White House did not offer any specific examples of when it would be appropriate to seek the death penalty for drug dealers and referred further questions to the Justice Department.

President Donald Trump will ask the Justice Department to seek the death penalty for drugs traffickers - but won't push to change current laws, under which drug dealers can be punished with death only when convicted of murder.

The department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Current law allows the death penalty to be used for crimes under provisions 18 USC 3591 (b) and 21 USC 848 (e).

In 2008, the Supreme Court held that constitutional prohibitions on cruel and unusual punishment barred the use of the death penalty in cases involving the rape of a child if the crime did not result in death or was not meant to do so.

Trump has publicly expressed his desire to enforce strict punishments for drug dealers, and proposed at a recent rally that dealers be given the death penalty.

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Yet the White House said the Obama administration was too lax in enforcing drug laws against traffickers - particularly those who dealt fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is pouring into the heroin supply from overseas and causing a dramatic surge in overdoses.

Emergency room visits for overdoses from drugs like heroin, fentanyl and prescription painkillers were up 30 percent from 2016 to 2017.

"Obviously, this crisis impacts everyone everywhere", she said.

"Right now, possession of these drugs is nearly always a federal crime", the official added.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are hammering out legislation to combat the opioid epidemic.

He wants federal resources to assist states in expanding the use of overdose-reversing naloxone and medication-assisted treatment, which has a proven track record of success.

Opioids including carfentanil and heroin killed 42 000 people in the country in 2016, and overdoses from such drugs are now the most common cause of death under the age of 50 in the country. The Trump administration hopes to accomplish that through changes in federal reimbursement rates and enhancing state prescription drug monitoring programs.

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.

Congress struck a budget agreement that provides $6 billion to fight the opioid epidemic over this year and next.

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