President Donald Trump showed support for using the death penalty against drug traffickers Wednesday, applauding China’s recent decision to classify synthetic opioid Fentanyl as a “controlled substance.”
Under the new classification—brokered by Trump and President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires last week—those caught smuggling Fentanyl to the U.S. can receive China’s maximum sentence: the death penalty.
“If China cracks down on this ‘horror drug,’ using the Death Penalty for distributors and pushers, the results will be incredible!” Trump said in an early morning tweet, adding that more than 77,000 people died from Fentanyl in 2017. According to a November report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were just over 70,000 total drug overdose deaths in 2017—but that’s not to say Fentanyl isn’t a huge problem. Deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (which includes Fentanyl) increased 45% between 2016 and 2017, whereas the rates of overdose deaths from other categories of drugs remained the same, according to the CDC data.
Trump has been said to have championed the use of the death penalty to prevent drugs like Fentanyl from reaching users. During a December 2016 phone call with Rodrigo Duterte, Trump allegedly praised the anti-drug efforts of the Philippines president, who, according to the Human Rights Watch, has killed 12,000 in the name of drug prevention over the past two years.
“He often jokes about killing drug dealers… He’ll say, ‘You know the Chinese and Filipinos don’t have a drug problem. They just kill them,’” Trump also allegedly told an unnamed senior administration official, according to a February 2018 Axios report.
Trump’s plan to tackle the country’s opioid epidemic, released in March, included increased sentencing laws. At the time, Trump’s Domestic Policy Council director, Andrew Bremberg, stated that, “The Department of Justice will seek the death penalty against drug traffickers when it’s appropriate under current law.”