Death penalty

Richard Branson: Abolishing the death penalty

One area of particular concern to death penalty opponents like me is the so-called war on drugs. At least 32 countries still prescribe the death penalty for various drug offences. […]

One of these countries is Iran, which has in recent years seen a dramatic increase in drug-related death sentences and may execute more drug offenders than any other country in the world – over 300 people in 2014 alone. Most recently, Indonesia executed six drug offenders and plans to execute more – including the Australian leaders of the group known as the “Bali Nine” – in the coming weeks.

Both countries claim that executions are an important and effective deterrent. Nothing could be further from the truth. Drug use is a daily reality in Iran and Indonesia, with a dramatic increase in the illicit drug market observable especially in Indonesia. Tough law enforcement and draconian sentences, including executions, have failed entirely to change this status quo. Overall, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that the death penalty has a deterrent effect on those using and trafficking drugs.

Like Branson, I am opposed to the death penalty in general, for a variety of practical and moral reasons. And to use it as a tool of prohibition seems somehow even more heinous, given the destruction caused by prohibition.

It’s an additional reason to push for legal regulation of drugs, and in the meantime, at the very least, we need to stop incentivizing it — which is what happens when we provide financial assistance to these countries for their drug war.

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39 Responses to Death penalty

  1. TwilightClone says:

    “The results of testing a number of hypotheses indicated that since the introduction of the death penalty for drug offences, the numbers of drug arrests and the incidence of violence related to drug offences have increased. In addition, the smuggling of drugs by sea has increased. Moreover, heroin trafficking has increased since the introduction of the death penalty.

    Finally, the findings of this study indicate that the introduction of the death penalty in Oman does not deter drug offenders from involvement in drug related offences in general and drug trafficking offences in particular.”

    Norris, Clive (Supervisor)
    February 2004
    Department of Comparative and Applied Social Sciences, The University of Hull
    Qualification level: Doctoral PhD

  2. jean valjean says:

    I’m reminded of peter hitchens’ complaint that a drug war has never actually been fought by western governments. Its clear where he sees the role model for a “real” drug war…. Iran. Perhaps he’ll emmigrate.

  3. Frank W. says:

    Jeralyn Merritt of “Talk Left” has been on a crusade to “boycott Bali” when she isn’t busy gushing about shitty reality shows. She does have a good handle on the shitty reality of Indonesia drug policy.

  4. Servetus says:

    Among the 32 countries that have capital punishment for certain drug offenses is the good old U. S. of A.

    Ever since 1994, thanks to Bill (I didn’t inhale) Clinton, trafficking in large quantities of drugs where a murder has not occurred has come under (18 U.S.C. 3591(b)), accordingly:

    Very large quantities or mixtures of heroin, cocaine, ecgonine, phencyclidine (PCP), lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana, or methamphetamine.* The United States Supreme Court in Kennedy v. Louisiana struck down capital punishment for crimes that do not result in the death of a victim, but left open the possibility for “offenses against the State” – including crimes such as “drug kingpin activity” (and treason and espionage).

    * “In 1994 Congress enacted the Federal Death Penalty Act (FDPA) with provisions permitting the imposition of the death penalty on Drug Kingpins. The FDPA is unprecedented in American legal history in that the death penalty can be imposed in cases where the Drug Kingpin does not take a human life.” See also: Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, and the section on the Federal Death Penalty Act. The death penalty for drug kingpins: Constitutional and international implications. By Eric Pinkard. Fall, 1999. Vermont Law Review.

    The death penalty laws for drug trafficking in the United States have not been applied to any defendant, and are regarded as largely “symbolic”. However, it’s not just the federal government that allows for a drug trafficking death penalty. Florida (Jeb Bush country), and Missouri (Ferguson country), also have death penalty statutes for trafficking drugs, even though no murder has occurred.

    As symbolic as the U.S. and some state laws may be, there is no reason for Iran, Indonesia, China, or any other such country to change their barbaric treatment of drug criminals as long as America is flaunting its own primitive attitude toward drug crimes. Getting Congress, Florida, and Missouri to wipe such laws off their books would be a major step forward toward ending drug enforcement human rights crimes in the other 31 countries that make drugs involvement a capital offense.

    • DdC says:

      The United States can’t be so fixed on our desire to preserve the rights of ordinary Americans . . . .
      — Bill Clinton, March 1, 1993,
      during a press conference in Piscataway, N.J.
      (Boston Globe, 3/2/93, page 3; and USA Today, 3/11/93

      Deep in the Black Heart of Teckus…

      Occupied America, U.S. No Longer An Actual Democracy

      “Casual drug users should be taken out and shot.”
      –x LAPD Chief Daryl Gates
      Father of SWAT Founder of DARE

      Ten worst sentences for marijuana-related crimes
      Punishments of this sort seldom fit the offense, but these cases are especially egregious

      Texas Judge Sentences Man To Death For Marijuana Possession
      An Austin Superior Court judge sentenced 34 year old Joseph Goldsmith to death row yesterday, after Goldsmith was picked up on his third offense for marijuana possession.Judge Martin Churchill said during the trial that he had “already seen [Goldsmith] twice” and that “the third time was the charm.”

      Exporting DEAmocracy

      “From time to time, I say that the suppression of medical marijuana is murder. This is not quite correct. It is actually mass murder. It has caused the deaths of countless thousands of people.”
      ~ the Financial Times Limited, 1998
      (Ed. note: The FT is the London equivalent of the Wall Street Journal.
      This drug could be patented, so it is of interest to the financial community.)

    • Duncan20903 says:


      The death penalty for drugs law violation in the U.S. regardless of it being a State or Federal sanction in not just “symbolic” in the U.S. it’s just plain unconstititional. Missouri and Florida may be vestiges of the time before the SCOTUS ruling in Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238, (1972) but the Federal death penalty for drugs law violations were put into the Federal criminal code by Congress with the full knowledge of the rulings in Furman and the Coker v. Georgia, 433 U.S. 584, (1977) ruling. In Coker, the Supreme Court ruled that a state cannot apply the death penalty to the crime of raping an adult woman because it violates the proportionality requirement.

      Subsequent to the Federal code adding the death penalty for certain drugs law violations, the Supreme Court extended its ruling in Coker in Kennedy v. Louisiana, 554 U.S. 407, (2008), holding that the penalty is categorically unavailable for cases of child rape in which the victim lives.

      There simply is no way that the death penalty for drugs law violations would get past the Federal Court of Appeals and it’s almost a given that the SCOTUS would not grant certiorari.

      It really does make my blood boil when any legislative body knowingly passes a law which is unconstitutional on its face. So where the heck is “the LAW is the LAW (blah, blah, blah)” crowd when authorities decide to break the law and violate their Oath? Up in the peanut gallery cheering that lawbreaking like the hypocritical partisan hacks that they are is where.

  5. primus says:

    Comments button in the upper right is still not working.

    • Pete says:

      Are you talking about the “Comments” link on the far upper right of the page that is a link for subscribing to the RSS feed for comments?

      • Freeman says:

        Speaking of rss feeds, the feed for posts doesn’t seem to be working for me either at home on Linux or at work on Windoze.

        • Pete says:

          Hmmm… I don’t know as much about feeds. I tried re-saving the settings and don’t know if that made any difference. When I click on either the posts or the comments button at the top, it takes me to my RSS reader, and the reader is up to date with the most recent of each. I’m working on a Mac with Safari, and iPad with Feeddler.

        • Freeman says:

          Thanks for checking, Pete. I’m not using a reader, I just open up the feed in a browser (Firefox), which usually displays a page of links to the posts where I can right-click/open in new tab on each link I haven’t read yet. I’m getting a blank page at the feed URL now, but it could be something like a Firefox update that’s causing it, though so far I’m only seeing the problem at this site.

        • Pete says:

          Well, I found a patch that seemed to address at least part of the problem. It ended the code error in Chrome, but Chrome gives me another issue. It links right to my RSS reader in Safari, and give the option to do so in Firefox, but shows a list of posts/comments with links – which is what I assume you saw before?

        • DdC says:

          That’s about it Pete. Comments button used to take you to a page with the last dozen or so posts made, regardless of the topic. Now (Firefox mac) pops up a bookmarker to subscribe or cancel. Subscribe, I found it in my puter bookmarks as a DWR comment folder, with the last posts entered on a side menu. On several topics which is sorta the same as the previous DWR page. Only I’m deleting them afterwards. Not sure if subscribing bookmarks everything, or rolls over with limits.

      • primus says:

        It says ‘cannot display this feed. This feed contains code errors’

        • Pete says:

          Primus: What browser? What system?

          All: Keep in mind that the purpose of those bottons is to subscribe to an RSS feed to use in a newsreader, so seeing the list of posts on a web page is not what it’s intended for.

          If you really want a recent list on a web page, I should create a tool for that – not try to make the RSS feed do that.

        • primus says:

          Windows 7 Professional, IE. You nailed it, I was viewing it without a viewer. It was a very handy tool, as finding the latest entries can be challenging. One must go through all of them and see which ones are new. Slow and inefficient. Looking at a list of the latest entries a couple times a day keeps me right up on the conversations. If you are able to make such a page, it would be used by most of us regulars, I am sure. If not, meh, it’s not like I have a life or anything.

  6. pricknick says:

    Funny he picked Iran as his first choice of drug persecution in the world. Is it bomb bomb bomb Iran?
    How many have died because of the drug war? Unknown.
    Why use Iran as a focal point? We kill as many here in the good ole usa.
    Put the blame where it belongs……here at home.

  7. Matt says:

    I suppose it can be looked at from various points of view. Firstly it is classic cartel behaviour to keep the price up, its just in this case the government does the murdering of the competition. Secondly, cheap political capital can be gained. It creates the illusion that the drug (heroin) really is dangerous enough (its not) to justify such a barbaric penalty. Thirdly, by keeping the price up by restricting the supply, a great commercial advantage is given to the drug dealers that really pose a threat to the populace of Indonesia, the tobacco industry. If the Indonesian government was to execute the trafficers of the deadliest drug in their country, they would be shooting the executives of multi-national tobacco companies. If there is an example to illustrate the barbarity and utter insantity of the drug war, this is probably it. Two Australians being murdered for attempting to import morphine into Australia. The Australian government will have blood on their hands when these two people are killed. They subscribe to the barbarity of the US lead drug war.

  8. A Critic says:

    “It’s an additional reason to push for legal regulation of drugs,”

    More control by the state of users and producers?

    No thank you.

    • jean valjean says:

      As opposed to more control by criminals of users and producers?

    • n.t. greene says:

      At worst this is a lateral move.

      At best, it’s a dramatic improvement.

      I fail to see how taking control away from criminal cartels and giving it to the (accountable) states is the worst outcome possible.

    • Matt says:

      Someone about to be shot in the heart for trafficking a drug other than alcohol, tobacco or caffeine would doubtless be in support of less control by the state. Most of the contributors to this forum would also be ecstatic if there was less government control over their drug use. I know from past experience that asking people how they profit from the “drug war” and are therefore prone to using faulty, self-serving reasoning such as that used in this comment will not receive a logical response.

      • Crut says:

        Most of the contributors to this forum


        Speak for yourself. Please do not pretend to presume that you share or understand the mentality of the posters here by offering this incorrect attribution.

        The government is controlling next to nothing though prohibition. Legalizing and regulating is the only known reasonable path forward to reliably get that oh so precious pure heroin that we supposedly can’t OD on…

        • Matt says:

          Crut, the legal basis for all the oppression, persecution and murder that is the very nature of the “War on Drugs” and therefore this forum is (as you call it in the US) the Controlled Substances Act. The fundamental anomoly is why cannabis et al are “controlled substances” whereas alcohol, tobacco and caffeine are not. This is the fundamental and all-powerful control that government has. This is what I was referring to. You might like to write to the “Drug Czar” or the director of the DEA and ask them why alcohol, tobacco and caffeine are not on the list? I bet you won’t get a straight answer. The government is absolutely in control via “prohibition”. They control who gets arrested, who goes to jail, who gets fined, who lose their assets and very likely their jobs, who gets executed, the supply, the purity, the price, the profits and the billions of dollars of corporate welfare that go to the police and others etc. Reasonable path forward? Most governments are not interested in “reasonable”. The “War on Drugs” is a hugely advantageous strategy for most governments.

  9. darkcycle says:

    Hey, O/T here, but I have been looking for reliable stats regarding relapse. The relapse numbers are there for Heroin and for alcohol (70% to 75% and 80% to 90%, respectively) but there’s nothing on cannabis relapse. An educated guess would put that number much lower than the numbers for other drugs, but without a number to cite, it doesn’t do much good. Have had an ongoing debate regarding harm reduction and maintenance therapy on another forum and the number would be helpful.

    • Duncan20903 says:


      Perhaps it depends on your definition of the word relapse. The people that signed me up for Court ordered drugs re-education because of a cannabis law violation would certainly be of the opinion that I “relapsed”. I’ve known perhaps as many as 100 people who found themselves in the same situation and more or less they did the rehab with no intention of permanently stopping. I’ve also known a few dozen people who have actually quit. But not a single one of them signed into rehab. The real problem with figuring the “relapse” rate among the fans of cannabis is that we don’t belong in that damn category anyway

      Have they managed to expand Merrywanna Anonymous in San Francisco so that you can go to a meeting every day of the week yet without leaving San Francisco County? For the love of god San Francisco is arguably the cannabis capital of the United States. Perhaps of the world but it would be a stiff competition with Amsterdam. At least until Election Day 2016 anyhow.

    • Servetus says:

      This is the first time I’ve read the term ‘relapse’ in the same sentence as ‘marijuana’.

  10. claygooding says:

    Can we wait to end the death sentence until after we find out if we can burn every drug czar at the stake?

  11. Windy says:

    OT this post but not the general topic of DWR.
    As Psychedelics Revival Rolls On, Don’t Downplay Bad Trips
    Does Pot Cause Your Brain to Rot?
    The dangers of Mary Jane are greatest for those who inhale as teens
    Might want to wander over to that latter link and educate this “Scientific” magazine on “pot” and the brain.

    • Duncan20903 says:


      Not too long ago it was ruled that a West Virginia woman died of an LSD overdose by the medical examiner and her husband was indicted for murder.

      LSD Did Not Kill Her, But It Looks Like Prohibition Did10/21/2013
      by Jacob Sullum.

      Todd Honaker had no intention of harming his wife, let alone killing her, but also because this would be the first documented case of a fatal LSD overdose in history. Last June I noted that Honaker was still behind bars, along with Chad Renzelman, a college buddy who had supplied the drug, even though West Virginia’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner had not determined what caused Renee Honaker’s death. It turns out that the drug Todd and Reneee Honaker took was not LSD after all; according to WSAZ, a TV station in Charleston, it was an NBOMe compound.


  12. Whoever left this guy Grassley holding the ball in the Senate Judiciary Committee had a real sense of humor. Grassley doesn’t understand it. Justice, that is.

    “Chuck Grassley Says Sentencing Reforms Backed by Mike Lee and Ted Cruz Are ‘Lenient’ and ‘Dangerous’ ”

    “Grassley warns that the Smarter Sentencing Act “would cut in half the mandatory minimum sentences for members of the Taliban, al-Qaeda, ISIS, or Hezbollah who deal drugs to fund acts of terror.” There you have it: If acid-sharing Deadheads do not go to prison for the rest of their lives, the terrorists win.”

    Here is the type of politician that would look favorably on a death penalty for drug dealers, I bet. As long as we put these sadistic punishment oriented fellows in charge of our “Justice” committee’s, there will be none. One should be required to understand the subject of justice before he runs a committee named after it.
    Sorry guys-just had to vent.

    • Matt says:

      He is protecting the profits and jobs in the prison industry.

    • DdC says:

      Wasn’t Ted Cruz somehow put in a Science committee? Grassley is a chip off the old Souder block, both heavy hitters in the Big Ag moneypit. Only 13% of Med Schools even mention the endoCannabinoid system yet they are writing policy. As bad as purposely dumbed down cops testifying on the dangers of reefer. No accountability, legally lying in court or never called on it. Just a sham that has spent over a Trillion dollars in taxes that went to prohibitches coffers, pell grants and pockets. The system is so fucked up only the people can change it. But probably won’t if the protests happen during a play off game. Now it is becoming clear who has integrity and who profits on not having any. They require liars and sheep, not thinking people.

      “As someone who spent 35 years wearing a police uniform, I’ve come to believe that hundreds of thousands of law-enforcement officers commit felony perjury every year testifying about drug arrests.”
      – Joseph McNamara, former San Jose Chief of Police

    • Duncan20903 says:


      The only thing that Mr. Grassley needed to do was to get re-elected enough times. Seniority and being a member of the majority party. Strom Thurman held the position from 1981 to1987. I guess they’ve never been too too picky picky about who gets that job.

      Grassley picks Judiciary from trio of chairmanships”>Grassley picks Judiciary from trio of chairmanships
      November 9, 2014

      When asked if he knew of any punchlines in search of a joke, Senator Grassley was quoted as saying, “My goal is to promote transparency and accountability and restore the committee’s role as a true check on the massive and powerful federal bureaucracy.”

      But c’mon now, he can’t be all bad. Did you know that he’s not an attorney? I know, I know, he sure could have fooled me too! Wait a second, I’ll have to check the facts but I think that you can’t call yourself an attorney if you’ve been disbarred. But it would explain my cognitive dissonance and it would all make sense.

      My apologies to Francis. I do mean the 99% of attorneys that give the other 1% a bad name.

  13. DdC says:

    I thought the cost of the death penalty would deter republicans, but apparently not.

    The study estimates that the average cost to Maryland taxpayers for reaching a single death sentence is $3 million – $1.9 million more than the cost of a non-death penalty case. (This includes investigation, trial, appeals, and incarceration costs.)

    Costs of the Death Penalty | Death Penalty Information Center

    Death Penalty Cost
    “Using conservative rough projections, the Commission estimates the annual costs of the present system ($137 million per year), the present system after implementation of the reforms … ($232.7 million per year) … and a system which imposes a maximum penalty of lifetime incarceration instead of the death penalty ($11.5 million).”

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