(CNN) – President Donald Trump officially proposed imposing the death penalty for certain drug dealers on Monday.
Speaking at an event focused on the opioid epidemic in New Hampshire, Trump said it was critical to “get tough” on combating the epidemic.
“If we don’t get tough on the drug dealers, we are wasting our time,” Trump said. “And that toughness includes the death penalty.”
Trump went on to say that dealers “will kill thousands of people during their lifetime” but won’t be punished for the carnage they cause.
“This is about winning a very, very tough problem and if we don’t get very tough on these dealers, it is not going to happen, folks,” he said.
Monday’s event marks Trump’s first trip back to the first-in-the-nation primary state — and the state that that introduced the businessman-turned-politician to the opioid scourge — since he won the presidency.
The President, joined by first lady Melania Trump, laid out a plan that looks to balance increasing punitive measures to stop drug traffickers and broadening the federal government’s involvement in combating the epidemic with a sweeping ad campaign about addiction and more funding for drug treatment programs, according to Trump administration officials briefed on the plans.
The plan will include stiffer penalties for high-intensity drug traffickers, including the death penalty for some, Trump said.
Though Trump has long advocated for sentencing certain drug traffickers to death, public policy experts have condemned the proposal even before Trump rolled it out, arguing that it misses the cause of the opioid epidemic.
Trump acknowledged the US may not be ready for the death penalty for drug dealers.
“Maybe our country is not ready for that. It’s possible … and I can understand it,” he said. “Maybe, although personally I can’t understand that.”
He also said the administration will push a “large scale” ad campaign aimed at combating the opioid epidemic.
“The best way to beat the drug crisis is to keep people from getting hooked in the first place,” Trump said. “This has been something I have been strongly in favor of — spending a lot of money on great commercials showing how bad it is.”
(This story was originally published on March 19, 2018)