|Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske (left) and President Obama: "Drug War Autopilot and Co-Autopilot," according to Phillip Smith at StoptheDrugWar.org|
Despite Promises, President Continues To Favor Punishment Over Treatment
The Obama Administration on Tuesday morning released its annual National Drug Control Strategy, detailing the methods and budgets planned to "combat drug use" for fiscal year 2013. The report stresses that more resources need to be spent on addiction treatment and prevention, and that an enforcement-centric "War On Drugs" is unworkable. But in a prime example of political incongruence, the report also shows that budget allocations for law enforcement methods could increase by hundreds of millions of dollars, including military operations on U.S. soil.
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of police officers, judges and prosecutors who have waged the so-called War On Drugs immediately criticized President Obama because his drug control budget does not match up to his rhetoric on treating drug abuse as a health problem.
|Marijuana Policy Project|
|Rob Kampia, MPP: "This budget is appalling"|
Government data from pervious years have never shown any correlation between drug-arrest rates and drug-use rates, meaning the War On Drugs has always been a complete failure.
While significant portions of the budget are used for harm reduction and prevention programs, many of the "Drug War" methods that have proven ineffective or downright useless over the past 40 years -- particularly those used in marijuana prohibition -- will likely see funding increases this year, according to the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) in Washington, D.C.
Despite the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) claiming the administration is implementing a "revolutionary shift" through a "public health approach," Obama's federal drug control budget maintains a Bush-era disparity devoting about 60 percent of the budget to punishment-oriented approaches and about 40 percent for treatment and prevention, according to LEAP.
Since taking office, President Obama has repeatedly said things like "We have to think more about drugs as a public health problem," which requires "shifting resources."
|Neill Franklin, LEAP: "The president sure does talk a good game about treating drugs as a health issue but so far it's just that: talk"|
The Department of Defense Domestic Counterdrug support program will get nearly $150 million this year, a whopping 600 percent increase of $124 million. More than $4.5 billion will be spent on federal incarceration of drug users and distributors.
In addition, the Obama Administration has requested the revival of the Youth Drug Prevention Media Program with a $20 million budget. Studies have shown that this program actually increased drug use among teens, having the opposite of the intended effect, and Congress, with good reason, allocated no money at all for the wasteful program last year.
"The president sure does talk a good game about treating drugs as a health issue but so far it's just that: talk," said Neill Franklin, executive director of LEAP and a former narcotics officer in Baltimore. "Instead of continuing to fund the same old 'drug war' approaches that are proven not work, the president needs to put his money where his mouth is."
"This strategy is nearly identical to previous national drug strategies," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "While the rhetoric is new -- reflecting the fact that three-quarters of Americans consider the drug war a failure -- the substance of the actual policies is the same.
|Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske's strategy would keep control of the cannabis trade in the hands of drug cartels|
"In reality, the administration is prioritizing low-level drug arrests, trampling on state medical marijuana laws, and expanding supply-side interdiction approaches -- while not doing enough to actually reduce the harms of drug addiction and misuse, such as the escalating overdose epidemic," Piper said.
"This budget is appalling," said Rob Kampia, executive director of MPP. "The drug czar is trying to resurrect those stupid TV ads, like the where where a teenager gets his fist stuck in his mouth.
"The budget intentionally undercounts the federal government's expenditures on incarcerating drug offenders, who comprise more than half of the federal prison population," Kampia said. "And the budget dangerously proposes a massive escalation in using the military to fight drugs domestically.
"Congress should just ignore this budget and start from scratch," Kampia suggested. "Specifically, Congress should not provide the Obama administration with any money to go after nonviolent marijuana users, growers, or distributors."
Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske's strategy would keep control of the marijuana trade in the hands of drug cartels and illegal operators, endangering communities and creating massive death tolls throughout Latin America, according to the MPP. In the past year, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, current and former Latin American leaders whose countries are being ravaged by drug cartels, and tens of millions of Americans have called for a more rational approach to marijuana policy.
|Bill Piper, DPA: "This strategy is nearly identical to previous national drug strategies"|
"U.S. voters, foreign leaders, and others hoping President Obama will bring change are going to be very disappointed," Piper said. "Despite lofty language about treating drug addiction as a health issue, the vast majority of Americans who want drug treatment do not have access to it.
"Instead, our nation's drug policies remain focused on punitive approaches -- such as arresting more than 750,000 Americans every year for nothing more than low-level marijuana possession," Piper said. "In fact, the Obama drug budget is nearly identical that that of previous presidents."
The release of the drug budget comes just days after President Obama returned from the Summit of the Americas meeting, where he was pressured by Latin American presidents like Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia and Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala to open up a debate on legalizing and regulating drugs.
The Obama Administration, however, has been deaf to the rising chorus against cannabis prohibition, repeatedly stating that making marijuana legal is not an option.
"The chorus of voices calling for a real debate on ending prohibition is growing louder all the time," Franklin said. "President Obama keeps saying he is open to a discussion but he never seems willing to actually have that discussion.
"Polls show that three out of four U.S. voters think the 'war on drugs' is a failure and a majority now support marijuana legalization," Franklin said. "The time for real change is now, but at the Summit of the Americas President Obama announced more than $130 million in aid to fund the continued effort to arrest drug traffickers in Latin America.
"This prohibition strategy hasn't worked in the past and it cannot work in the future," Franklin said. "Latin American leaders know it, and President Obama must know it. Let's stop the charade and begin to bring drugs under control through legalization."
The 2012 National Drug Control Strategy, released by the White House ONDCP, can be found online here.