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March 12, 2008 - Drug Policy Alliance (US)

Drug Czar Walters Covering Up Record of Failure

John Walters Testifies in Congress in Support of Bush's 2008 National Drug Control Strategy

Fatal Overdoses on the Rise, Transmission of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C from Injection Drug Use Continues to Mount, 1 in 100 Americans Now Behind Bars

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Drug Czar John Walters will testify today at 2pm before the House Domestic Policy Subcommittee. He is expected to defend the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy's 2008 Drug Strategy, which continues to fund failed supply-side strategies at the expense of more effective prevention and treatment. Below is a statement from Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance:

Every year the drug czar tries to put a good spin on the failure of the drug war, and this year is no exception. Americans should ask themselves, 'Are drugs as available as ever?' Answer: Yes. 'Do our communities continue to be devastated by astronomical incarceration rates and death and disease related to drug abuse and drug prohibition?' Again, yes.

Despite spending hundreds of billions of dollars and incarcerating millions of Americans, experts acknowledge that illicit drugs remain cheap, potent and widely available in every community. Meanwhile, the harms associated with drug abuse -- addiction, overdose and the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis -- continue to mount. Add to this record of failure the collateral damage of drug prohibition and the drug war -- broken families, racial inequity, wasted tax dollars, and the erosion of civil liberties. The evidence is clear and it is foolish and irresponsible to claim success.

What matters most is not whether drug use rates go up or down but whether we see any improvements in the death, disease, crime and suffering that are associated with both illegal drugs and drug prohibition. The current approach, with its "drug-free America" rhetoric, and over reliance on punitive, criminal justice policies costs taxpayers billions more each year, yet delivers less and less. It's time for a new bottom line in drug policy, one that focuses on reducing the harms associated with both drug misuse and the collateral damage from the drug war.

March 12, 2008 - Washington Post (DC)

Drug Office's Budget Tactics Faulted; Experts Note Difficulty in Tracking and Evaluating Priorities

By Christopher Lee; Washington Post Staff Writer

Despite congressional demands for transparency, the Office of National Drug Control Policy has a murky budget that understates its emphasis on popular law enforcement efforts over treatment and prevention programs, budget and drug policy experts say.

In February, the White House requested $14.1 billion for drug control efforts in fiscal 2009, a 3.4 percent increase. Nearly two-thirds would go to law enforcement, interdiction efforts and programs to destroy drug crops abroad.

Just over a third, or $4.9 billion, would fund treatment and prevention efforts.

"The federal government will continue to do its part to keep our young people safe, and I urge all Americans to do the same," President Bush said in a March 1 radio address.

But the White House has made the job harder, experts say. In 2002, the administration narrowed the way it counts federal anti-drug spending, which is scattered across programs in about two dozen agencies. As a result, billions of dollars spent by several agencies moved off of the drug control office's books.

The White House argued that the new budget method merely stripped out spending over which the drug control office had no influence, such as law enforcement grants that only minimally involved anti-drug efforts.

"The way the budget had been compiled for years was designed to make the drug control budget look as big as it possibly could," said Tom Riley, a drug office spokesman. "This was to really say, 'Let's make the budget more about the things we actually manage and the things that we actually do focus on.' "

But some lawmakers have complained that the new method does not provide the full picture, and in 2006 Congress directed the administration to return to the old one.

That has not happened. The latest budget request contains an appendix summarizing nearly $4.8 billion in spending of the sort lawmakers want in the more detailed main budget, including more than $4 billion at the Justice Department.

The drug office's failure to comply "is part of a pattern of practices that frustrates Congress's and the public's ability to measure the effectiveness of our nation's drug control policies," said Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio), chairman of a House oversight subcommittee that will hold a hearing on the office's budget today.

Experts say lawmakers and the public need a more complete accounting to properly assess federal anti-drug efforts. In an analysis of past budgets, John Carnevale, a former Clinton administration drug control office budget director, found that since fiscal 2002 federal spending on "supply side" efforts -- interdiction, law enforcement and overseas activities -- has grown 57 percent.

Spending on treatment and prevention grew 2.7 percent.

Yet research has found that prevention and treatment do more to reduce drug consumption and drug-related crime, said economist Rosalie Pacula, co-director of Rand Corp.'s Drug Policy Research Center. "That doesn't mean you destroy the enforcement budget," said Pacula, who is set to testify today. "It's just saying that for increases in the budget, you'll get your biggest bang for the buck by putting it into treatment resources."

Riley defended the administration's approach. He said some of the biggest opponents of changes to supply-side efforts, such as local law enforcement grants, have been members of Congress protecting their turf.

"There was no choice to sit at the dial of drug policy and say, hmm, let's move from demand to supply," Riley said. "That's not what's happened at all. In fact, I would say there has been a very powerful appreciation and understanding of the power of prevention, treatment and recovery in this administration."

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