In certain countries illegal importing, exporting, sale, or possession of drugs constitute capital offences that may result in the death penalty. A March 2018 report by Harm Reduction International says: "There are at least 33 countries and territories that prescribe the death penalty for drug offences in law. ... 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."
A 2015 article by The Economist says 32 countries have the death penalty for drug smuggling, but only 6 really carry it out. According to a 2011 article by the Lawyers Collective, an NGO in India, "32 countries impose capital punishment for offences involving narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances."
A 2009 CNN article lists penalties for drug-related crime in Asia by country. Since then President Thein Sein of Myanmar commuted all of the country’s death sentences to life imprisonment in January 2014. South Korea has the death penalty for drugs. But South Korea has a de facto moratorium on the death penalty since it has not executed anybody since 1997, even though there are still people on death row, and even though new death sentences have been handed down in the last few years.
|Democratic Republic of the Congo|||
|India||Option when second conviction for drug trafficking in quantities specified.|
|Indonesia||Death penalty for drug related crimes depending on severity (drug trafficking, possession of large amounts of drugs, etc.) other drug related crimes may result in life sentencing or other harsh punishments.|
|Iran||Tried under the jurisdiction of the Islamic Revolutionary Court, a special court that tries individuals accused of smuggling, blaspheming or committing acts of treason. Iran ranks second in the world for most executions.|
|Myanmar||According to the cartography available on the French version of the website of the International Federation of Human Rights, drugs crimes can still be punished by death penalty in Myanmar in theory.|
|Saudi Arabia||Saudi Arabia ranks third in the world for the most executions. 43 percent of those executed in 2015 had been convicted of smuggling drugs, ranging from heroin to marijuana.|
|Singapore||see Misuse of Drugs Act (Singapore). Muhammad Ridzuan Md Ali is one of the latest drug traffickers executed in Singapore on 19 May 2017 after his appeals were all thrown out.|
|South Korea||Drug trafficking can get the death penalty. But South Korea has not had an execution for any offense since 1997.|
|Taiwan||Legal penalty under Narcotics Hazard Prevention Act, though rarely enforced in recent years. Last execution for drug trafficking offense is on 7 October 2002.|
|United Arab Emirates|
|United States||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).|
A sign at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport warns arriving travelers that drug trafficking is a capital offense in Taiwan.
|Making this discussion somewhat easier is the fact that in a recent case totally unrelated to drug trafficking (the case itself addressed the constitutionality of imposing the death penalty for rape of a child where no death occurs), Kennedy v. Louisiana, the U.S. Supreme Court conducted a detailed analysis of the distinction between crimes that do and do not take a human life and the relationship of each type of crime to the death penalty. Within this analysis, in a non-binding portion of the Court’s opinion (dictum), the Court drew an analytical line separating “offenses against the individual” from “offenses against the State.” In its holding, the Kennedy Court stated that, at least within the category of “offenses against the individual,” the death penalty is unconstitutional for crimes that do not take a human life, because the punishment of death is “excessive” and “disproportionate” to the crime, pursuant to the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on “cruel and unusual punishment.” With respect to the other category, however – “offenses against the State” – including crimes such as drug trafficking (and treason and espionage), even when they do not result in a death, the Court left open the possibility that the death penalty might not be unconstitutionally “excessive” punishment.|
Methods of execution:
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