On March 19, President Donald Trump unveiled his administration’s plan to stem the opioid overdose crisis in the United States, which has claimed some 350,000 lives since 2000. Among other measures, it proposes severe punishment for people involved in the illegal drug trade, including longer minimum jail sentences and potentially the death penalty.
This is an extreme version of what’s actually an old approach to combating substance use: Attacking the supply side of the drug trade.
From banning Chinese immigration in 1882 – supposedly on the grounds that Chinese people promoted vices like smoking opium – to the mass incarceration that followed the 1980s-era crack panic, the United States has long sought to reduce drug consumption by clamping down on drug sources. It has never killed citizens for trafficking drugs, though.