Jeff Sessions Formally Directs States to Pursue Death Penalty in Certain Drug-Related Cases


Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed states in a memo released Wednesday to pursue the death penalty in certain drug-related cases as an answer to the opioid epidemic—a plan President Trump first announced this week in New Hampshire.

“I strongly encourage federal prosecutors to use these statutes, when appropriate, to aid in our continuing fight against drug trafficking and the destruction it causes in our nation,” Sessions wrote in the memo, which was dated Tuesday. “To combat this deadly epidemic, federal prosecutors must consider every lawful took at their disposal…This should also include the pursuit of capital punishment in appropriate cases.”

Sessions cited situations including dealing drugs in “extremely large” quantities and using a gun to commit murder during a drug trafficking crime as ones that could yield a death penalty charge.

Although the announcement is in line with Trump’s vision—he’s repeatedly praised Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s support for extrajudicial killings of suspected drug dealers and drug users—it’s still an extraordinary step for the administration to take, one that could very well be unconstitutional.

It’s also just one of the ideas to revamp the drug war that Trump announced this week, along with such brilliant proposals as “let’s make non-addictive meds, maybe” and “how about doing some PSAs.” As more than 100 Americans, on average, keeping dying each day from opioid overdoses, it feels like a grimly safe prediction that none of these ideas will help.

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