Capital Punishment for Drug Offenses (Death Penalty and Extrajudicial Killings)


Death Penalty Information Center: Overview of Federal Laws Providing for the Death Penalty

The death penalty for drug offenses represents a violation of human and civil rights, and as a policy it is ineffective and counterproductive. For further information, check out Harm Reduction International's "The Death Penalty for Drug Offences: Global Overview 2018".

Page last updated Feb. 27, 2021 by Doug McVay, Editor.

1. Capital Punishment for Drug Offenses in the US - Federal Law

Federal death penalty law: 18 USC § 3591(b)
"Despite drug trafficking being a federal capital offence in the USA, the country has never executed anyone for drug-related offences.250 Nevertheless, the USA remains the only country to have carried out executions in the Americas region in seven consecutive years.251 Donald Trump’s recent public support of the death penalty,252 his call for fast trials, and his support for Duterte’s bloody ‘war on drugs’ in the Philippines are very worrying,253 particularly as 2017 has seen some States, including Arkansas, Florida and Ohio, resume executions after long hiatuses.254"

Gen Sander. The Death Penalty For Drug Offences: Global Overview 2017. Harm Reduction International, March 2018.

2. Federal Offenses Eligible for Death Penalty

Click here to open table of federal offenses eligible for death penalty.

US Attorneys Manual. Criminal Resource Manual. Capital Eligible Statutes Assigned by Section.

3. Global Overview of Capital Punishment for Drug Offenses

"• There are at least 33 countries and territories that prescribe the death penalty for drug offences in law.
"• At least nine countries still have the death penalty for drug offences as a mandatory sanction, although three of these (Brunei Darussalam, Laos and Myanmar) are abolitionist in practice. Malaysia removed the mandatory sentence for drug offences in November 2017.
"• Between January 2015 and December 2017, at least 1,320 people are known to have been executed for drug-related offences – 718 in 2015; 325 in 2016; and 280 in 2017. These estimates do not include China, as reliable figures continue to be unavailable for the country.
"• Taking China out of the equation due to a lack of data, Iran has been the world’s top executioner for drug offences by far, with at least 1,176 executions carried out since January 2015. That amounts to nearly 90% of all reported drug-related executions during that period.
"• Between 2015 and 2017, executions for drug offences took place in at least five countries: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Singapore."

Gen Sander. The Death Penalty For Drug Offences: Global Overview 2017. Harm Reduction International, March 2018.