In a macabre twist in the already insanely cruel, dehumanizing, and ultimately pointless process of executing convicted criminals in the US, officials in Lincoln, Nebraska opted to use the opiate Fentanyl to kill Carey Dean Moore this week. Moore was convicted of killing two Omaha cab drivers in the late ’70s and was regarded as one of the longest-serving death row prisoners in the United States. The drug, popular among traffickers as a cutting agent to increase potency in heroin, has been largely responsible for skyrocketing overdose rates during an opiate abuse epidemic that’s raged for more than a decade. Eric Stoltz was evidently prophetic as drug dealer Lance in Pulp Fiction that heroin was coming back in a big, big way.
The United States has had a real hard time executing people lately. Many pharmaceutical chemists in Europe stopped most exports of sodium thiopental in 2010 either because they were fundamentally opposed to the death penalty or because they no longer wanted their products associated with executions. This has led to barbaric experimentation with various drug cocktails leaving condemned men the victims of botched executions, arguably violating statutes against cruel and inhumane punishment as well as strengthening the cases and increasing the numbers of death penalty opponents.
There’s something fundamentally childish and simultaneously dystopian in watching, on average, 200 people per day in 2017 overdose on drugs, looking at the problem of obtaining chemicals used for executions, and deciding that there’s a solution there. Just as the heroin and crack crises of the ’70s and ’80s were very much manufactured, controlled demolitions of targeted communities, it’s not a stretch to say that between deliberate corporate over-prescribing of opiate pharmaceuticals at the turn of the century and the subsequent “crackdown” there’s been a concentrated effort to criminalize wide swaths of the (primarily poor) population at the benefit of a for-profit prison and drug rehabilitation system. It goes without saying that there’s no greater form of social or population control than a populace completely strung out on opiates.
What irony, of course, that a drug wiping out everyone from the American underclass to suburban teenagers to celebrated artists is now being employed to execute the nation’s most neglected social caste: prisoners. Even sweeter, state agencies are likely using dubious, less-than-legal methods to obtain the drugs, topping off the contradictions of a drug war that has seen the rapid end of marijuana prohibition in almost half of the country (despite thousands remaining in cells over its trafficking and cultivation), the research and eventual prescription of MDMA, ketamine, and psilocybin to combat veterans and others suffering from PTSD, and the proliferation of microdosed LSD to programmers in Silicone Valley working on the nation’s next most useless (or eventually globally nefarious) tech export.