President Trump to unveil opioid plan that will seek death penalty for drug dealers: White House

US President Donald Trump speaks at the White House Opioid Summit in the East Room of the White House, on March 1, 2018.
US President Donald Trump speaks at the White House Opioid Summit in the East Room of the White House, on March 1, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - President Donald Trump will unveil a plan on Monday (March 19) to combat the opioid addiction crisis in the United States that includes seeking the death penalty for drug dealers.

Mr Trump is urging Congress to toughen sentencing laws for drug traffickers, White House officials said on Sunday.

The White House plan will also seek to cut opioid prescriptions by a third over the next three years, officials said in a news briefing.

Mr Trump will outline his proposals at an event in New Hampshire, which has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic.

The White House also floated several other initiatives to combat opioid overdoses that killed more than 40,000 people in the US in 2016 - five times higher than the rate in 1999.

Mr Trump has talked in the past about his desire to impose capital punishment for drug dealers, arguing that some of them are responsible for hundreds of deaths.

It is unclear if Mr Trump's directive will actually be implemented as even routine death penalty judgments in murder cases often face years of litigation.

"I don't think we should play games," Mr Trump said earlier this month during a political rally in Pennsylvania.

"These people are killing our kids and they're killing our families, and we have to do something."

Also included in the initiative: tougher criminal penalties for trafficking in fentanyl, a frequently-abused pain medication; new public outreach efforts to deter drug use; and additional restrictions on federal funding for opioid treatments.