Last Wednesday (2/18), a top aide to Iranian President Mohammad Khatami told Iran's official news agency (IRNA) that that nation's ten year old policy of publicly executing drug smugglers has not and will not achieve its intent of stopping or even slowing the drug trade. Iran has executed more than 2,000 people for drug offenses, many of them publicly, over the past decade.
"Executing drug smugglers is not a suitable way to fight drugs and our 10-year experience shows that this has not been a solution" the aide said.
Iran's strict code mandated death to anyone caught in possession of 30 grams of heroin or 11 lbs. of opium.
Perhaps Iran's experience might be enough to deter US legislators from re-introducing the Drug Importer Death Penalty Act of 1997. The bill, which called for a mandatory death penalty for anyone convicted for a second trafficking offense, was sponsored by then-speaker Newt Gingrich and attracted a list of 37 co-sponsors, 36 Republicans and 1 Democrat. Though the Act does not specify weight limits, it would be violated whenever someone was caught importing an amount "equal to 100 doses" of any controlled substance. Such a calculation would impose death for a far smaller amount of heroin than did the failed Iranian law.
In fact, by that standard it would take the importation of only a small amount (likely well under 2 oz.) of marijuana to violate the act. First-time offenders under the Act would receive a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Calls placed to the offices of several of the original co-sponsors of the Importer Death Penalty Act by The Week Online were not returned. A Democratic staffer who declined to be identified told The Week Online that although there was no indication as to whether or not the bill would be re-introduced in this session, "It really wouldn't surprise me. Politicians introduce all kinds of crazy legislation, and, if they're willing to work at it, they can get a lot of it passed."