WASHINGTON (CN) – Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday issued a memo to U.S. attorneys advising them to seek the death penalty for some drug traffickers, which was part of President Trump’s plan to combat the opioid epidemic released earlier this week.
The “unprecedented toll” of the opioid epidemic, Sessions said, calls for a refusal to “continue with business as usual.”
“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 his Wednesday memo, Sessions noted opioids have killed more than 64,000 Americans in 2016 and is now the leading cause of death for those under 50.
“Drug traffickers, transnational criminal organizations, and violent street gangs all contribute substantially to this scourge. To combat this deadly epidemic, federal prosecutors must consider every lawful tool at their disposal,” he said. “This includes designating an opioid coordinator in every district, fully utilizing the data analysis of the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, as well as using criminal and civil remedies available under federal law to hold opioid manufacturers and distributors accountable for unlawful practices.”
Capital punishment should be pursued in the “appropriate cases,” he added, noting that Congress has already passed several statutes which provide the Department of Justice with guidance on how to punish particularly heinous drug-related crimes.
The statues Sessions singled out include racketeering activities falling under 18 USC 1959; the use of a firearm resulting in death during a drug trafficking crime under 18 USC 924; USC murder in furtherance of continuing a criminal enterprise under 18 USC 848 and lastly, dealing in extremely large quantities of drugs which falls under 18 USC 3591(b)(1).
Sessions joined President Donald Trump for a speech addressing the epidemic Monday at Manchester Community College in New Hampshire.
Telling attendees drug traffickers were “terrible people,” the president emphasized the need to “get tough” on the issue.
“If we don’t get tough on the drug dealers, we’re wasting our time,” he said, adding that “toughness” would include the death penalty.