Drug Czar Goes to Congress, Describes Some Shift in War on Drugs

Gil Kerlikowski, Obama's Drug Czar, testified Wednesday before the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform. His prepared statement is here. The hearing was titled, "ONDCP's Fiscal Year 2011 National Drug Control Budget: Are We Still Funding a War on Drugs?"

Here's the statement of Ethan Nadelman, Executive Director, Drug Policy Alliance.

Last May, Kerlikowski also advocated a change in the war on drugs, which has been a failure. At Thursday's hearing, he stressed treatment over incarceration.

The problem? Kerlikowski's new policy looks too much like the old one. [More...]

Here's what he said: "This renewed focus on prevention and treatment does not come at the expense of effective enforcement." And enforcement efforts are also due for an increase in funding, albeit of only 1.9 percent, under the administration's proposed budget.

From Drug Policy Alliance, which while praising the moderate changes of Obama-Kerlikowski, points out:

64% of their budget - virtually the same as under the Bush Administration – focuses on largely futile interdiction efforts as well as arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating extraordinary numbers of people. Only 36% is earmarked for demand reduction. The budget also ignores life-saving harm reduction measures such as naloxone-distribution and heroin assisted treatment, widely viewed around the world as a necessary part of any balanced, evidenced based drug strategy.

“Congress and the Obama administration have broken with the costly and failed drug war strategies of the past in some important ways,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “But the continuing emphasis on interdiction and law enforcement in the federal drug war budget suggest that ONDCP is far more wedded to the failures of the past than to any new vision for the future. I urge this committee to hold ONDCP and federal drug policy accountable to new criteria that focus on reductions in the death, disease, crime and suffering associated with both drugs and drug prohibition.”

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  • Display: Sort:
    Who Will Tell The People... (none / 0) (#1)
    by Yes2Truth on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 09:00:07 AM EST

    that the War on Drugs is the most costly, deadly

    war ever waged and that most of the victims and casualties of it are people who only use legal
    drugs?  Ending the longest, costliest War on Drug
    Users is the ONLY intelligent solution to saving lives, saving money, and reforming our repressive
    criminal (in)justice/law enforcement industrial

    The people have been told... (none / 0) (#2)
    by kdog on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 09:04:06 AM EST
    time and time again, unfortunately the people don't wanna listen...it's a non-issue until them and theirs suffer a casualty.

    Or until their state is at risk to start bouncing checks, then they see the money in surrendering this god-damn war.


    The money quote (none / 0) (#4)
    by SeeEmDee on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 09:34:18 AM EST
    Or until their state is at risk to start bouncing checks, then they see the money in surrendering this god-damn war.

    Yepper, and that's just what's happening, right now in slow motion, but as things get tighter, and more and more municipalities, counties and States start to feel the pinch, the once unspeakable (RE-legalization) will be spoken.

    And those who will rail against that speech will be invited to provide some monetary help to those in need of the money the protesters have received as professional DrugWarriors.

    For, in the end, that's where it will have to come from.

    Budgets will have to be severely cut, or funds for badly needed social services (like unemployment) must be re-allocated, and one provable net loss for the taxpayers, year after year after year, has been the DrugWar.

    So, it's either admit that the DrugWar has been an expensive botch and stop throwing money at it...or face the wrath of those who've been cut off from unemployment and now face hunger and homelessness, thanks to the money they need being spent on crap like this.

    I suppose people like that Sheriff are anticipating the social unrest the Meltdown will eventually generate, and fully expect to use that thing on his paymasters, the taxpayers who are feeling the pinch. One more reason to take away 'their' toys...


    The Real Intoxication (none / 0) (#3)
    by squeaky on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 09:07:31 AM EST
    Is all the money that the WOD generates. Too many people are making a good living by keeping certain drug illegal. Not to mention the votes gained by promising to protect the children...

    That sort of intoxication should be the one that is criminal.

    BINGO! And it's a very long list (none / 0) (#6)
    by Yes2Truth on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 12:00:27 PM EST

    Take the Cameron Douglas case, for example.  After they're done with him, the prosecutors can leave the DA's office and immediately begin attracting
    high-paying narcotics case defendants.  

    The Douglas defense team will now be in a much better position to attract even more celebrity

    From that one high-profile case, there are two
    large groups of powerful interests who have every reason to NOT rock the WOD golden goose.

    And that's just the beginning.  Even the media is compromised by the WOD (sensational stories about
    busts, deaths, Mexican cartels etc. attract viewers and readers).

    Once the Genie is out of the bottle, not even 70+ years is enough time to right the wrongs caused by
    illegal, immoral wars - though they are "fought" against PEOPLE who merely wish to be free to live their life the way the Constitution promises.


    Just decriminalize and reduce funding (none / 0) (#5)
    by Realleft on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 11:30:22 AM EST
    for enforcement. Promoting legalization with taxation of THC is a no-win proposition.  And most addiction treatment in the US is poor, so throwing money at that system as currently configured isn't a very good use of funds either.  There are good, effective addiction services that could be provided, but few clinics in the US actually offer them, favoring instead mandated 12-step and confrontational approaches that are not very effective and often backfire.

    You know something about treatment (none / 0) (#7)
    by observed on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 12:24:11 PM EST
    research? I'm just curious. What are the recommended treatment strategies now?