Facing The Death Penalty: Is Trump Right On Drug Smuggling?

An Instagram model recently pleaded guilty to smuggling $21million worth of cocaine into Australia; the 23-year-old was caught with 95kg in Sydney last August and will be sentenced later this month in March.

The punishment could see life imprisonment for the culprit, Melina Roberge. Given the proximity of the crime, the Canadian may consider such sentencing a lucky escape when people face the death penalty for similar crimes just a few thousand miles away in Indonesia.

With such a severe punishment, Indonesia’s response to drug smuggling naturally divides opinion. The President himself, Joko Widodo, recently received a letter signed by 30 civil society organisations in Indonesia asking to lower the levels of punishment on drug smuggling.

However, the President of the United States is one who believes that the death penalty is a fair sentence for the crime. Donald Trump this week has reportedly pledged his support behind the death penalty for people drug smuggling which was revealed by an Axios report:

“President Donald Trump is advocating for the death penalty for major drug dealers and much harsher punishments for all drug dealing.” — Aileen Graef, CNN

The report also indicates how Trump is an advocate for a five-year sentence for anyone who is caught up to dealing just two grams of synthetic opioid fentanyl – the current amount for a similar sentence is 40 grams.

Image Source: 123rf.com

It’s another controversial stance the President takes following Trump’s recent comments promoting the idea that teachers should carry guns. Traditional western media has regularly criticised countries such as Indonesia’s policy on the death penalty which has conversely seen Trump receive heavy backlash for his comments.

Does Trump Have A Point?

Another country which has the death penalty for drug smuggling is the Philippines, a nation that has seen more than 12,000 people executed from drug-related crimes since 2016. America, in contrast, carried out just 31 executions in 2016 – the lowest number since 1991.

Generally, Americans are not in favour of the death penalty; a 2015 poll found that just 53% of people believed Dzhokha Tsarnaev – the man guilty of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings which killed three people – should face the death penalty for his crime. Considering the severity of his actions, the whole idea of an ‘eye for an eye’ is not an overwhelming conclusion from Americans; taking the life for drug-smuggling is therefore likely to be heavily frowned upon.

It costs a lot of money to carry out an execution; the average amount for a trial as extreme as the death penalty costs in excess of $600,000 – hardly the sort of bill taxpayers will want on their desk. There’s then the issue of sourcing lethal injections with America banning the death penalty in 19 states.

“But even if the Trump administration altered the Constitution and found the money and resources to put drug dealers to death, it would have a hard time finding lethal injection drugs to complete the process.”

— Nathalie Baptiste, Motherjonest

In contrast, 75% of Indonesians are in favour of the death penalty. According to the National Narcotics Agency around 40-50 Indonesians die from drugs each day, with an estimated 5.8million being considered drug addicts; for a population of 260 million, having 45% of south-east Asia’s narcotic trade is an alarming amount and suggests the harsh consequences are not doing their job.

However, when comparing Indonesian consumption to the US, it would suggest harsh drug laws are lowering the amount of cocaine that is trafficked through the country. The US has an estimated 230x the number of cocaine users than Indonesia; America consumption was at 150metric tons of cocaine in 2010 compared with around 500kg per year for Indonesia.

Image Source: Huffington Post

Such different levels of consumption would suggest harsh punishments implemented by Indonesia are working; however, America’s proximity to Colombia – where 70-80% of the world’s cocaine is produced – could play a large part in the reasons for such high consumption.

Nevertheless, aside from the logistical nightmare that the Constitution would create in allowing such a punishment to happen, the introduction of the death penalty could well lower the amount of drug consumption in the US, such is the case of nations in the eastern parts of the world.


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