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Obama Administration Plans To Increase Spending On The Failed Drug War In 2013


obama marijuanaby Phillip Smith

The Obama administration this week released its Fiscal Year 2013 National Drug Control Budget, and it wants to spend nearly $26 billion on federal anti-drug programs. Despite all the talk about the staggering federal debt problem and current budget deficits, the administration found nothing to cut here. Instead, the proposed budget increases federal anti-drug funding by 1.6% over fiscal year 2012.

The proposed budget is remarkable for how closely it hews to previous years, especially in regard to the allocation of resources for demand reduction (treatment and prevention) versus those for supply reduction (domestic and international law enforcement and interdiction). The roughly 40:60 ratio that has been in place for years has shifted, but only incrementally. The 2013 budget allocates 41.2% for treatment and prevention and 58.2% for law enforcement.

“This is very much the same drug budget we’ve been seeing for years,” said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “The Obama drug budget is the Bush drug budget, which was the Clinton drug budget. Little has changed.”

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition“It’s really just more of the same,” said Sean Dunagan, a former DEA intelligence analyst whose last assignment in northeastern Mexico between 2008 and 2010, a when prohibition-related violence there was soaring, helped change his perspective. Dunagan quit the DEA and is now a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).

“There are very minor adjustments in how the drug spending is allocated and bit more money for treatment, but there’s a significant increase in interdiction, as well as a $61 million increase for domestic law enforcement,” Dunagan noted. “They’re trying to argue that they’re abandoning the drug war and shifting the focus, but the numbers don’t really back that up.”

The proposed budget also demonstrates the breadth of the federal drug spending largesse among the bureaucratic fiefdoms in Washington. Departments that catch a ride on the drug war gravy train include Agriculture, Defense, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, and Veterans’ Affairs, as well as the federal judiciary, District of Columbia courts, the Small Business Administration, and, of course, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP — the drug czar’s office).

“It’s just the same old programs being funded through the same old stove-pipes,” said Eric Sterling, executive director of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. “In a way, it’s ironic. When Congress passed the legislation creating the drug czar’s office in 1988, the idea was for the drug czar to look at all the federal anti-drug spending and come in and say he was going to take the funds from one program and shift them to a more effective program. I think many in Congress hoped he would shift resources from law enforcement to treatment and prevention because there was evidence that those sorts of programs were more effective and a better use of resources. That didn’t happen,” he said.

“The people who run the bureaucratic fiefdoms at Justice, Homeland Security, Defense, State and Treasury have outmuscled the drug czar, and now the drug czar’s budget announcements are reduced to public relations and spin,” Sterling continued. “They take some $15 or $20 million program and bullet-point it as significant, but that’s almost nothing when it comes to federal drug dollars.”

The Justice Department alone would get $7.85 billion, up almost $400 million from FY 2012, with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and the DEA among those Justice components seeing funding increases. BOP spending would increase by about 8%, while the DEA budget would increase from $2.35 million to $2.38 million. On the other hand, the National Drug Intelligence Center in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, which lost its congressional patron with the death of Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), has been zeroed out.
“The hundreds of millions of dollar increases in funding requested for the Federal Bureau of Prisons is particularly outrageous,” said Sterling. “There are too many people doing too much time they don’t need to be doing. Obama has the power to save hundreds of millions of dollars by commuting excessively long sentences. He could reduce the deficit and increase the amount of justice in America.

“He could tell the BOP he was ordering a cap on the federal prison population that now has a sentenced population of 198,000, Sterling continued, on a roll. “He could order them that whenever a new prisoner arrives, they have to send him the names of prisoners who may have served enough time for their crimes for him to consider for immediate release from prison. He could ask all the federal judges to send him the names of people they have sentenced to longer terms than they think are just. If he had the heart to reach out to those prisoners who are serving decades for minor roles and their suffering families, if he had the brains to put in place the means to achieve those cost-serving measures, and if he had the guts to actually use the constitutional power he has to do it, that would be great.”

“That increase in incarceration spending really jumps out at me, too” said Dunagan. “To make their claim that they’re not going to be locking up small-time dealers and users is pretty disingenuous.”

Pentagon spending on interdiction and other anti-drug activities would decline somewhat, with the budget proposing $1.725 billion for 2013, a decline of $200 million from the 2012 budget. But interdiction spending goes up elsewhere, as Dunagan noted.

And State Department drug spending would take a hit. Spending would decline by just more than $100 million to $687 million, but most of that decrease would come from reduced funding for alternative development assistance, while State’s other drug-related program, the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (“drugs and thugs”), would see only a $6 million decrease.

While funding for prevention and treatment would increase by 4.6% under the proposed budget, some treatment and grant programs are seeing cuts, while criminal justice system-based approaches are getting more money.

“I’m concerned that the budget seems to be emphasizing drug courts and criminal justice-based drug treatment,” said Piper. “They’re cutting SAMSHA, which funds a lot of treatment, but increasing spending for prison-based treatment.”

The $364 million earmarked for SAMSHA’s treatment programs is a $61 million reduction from FY 2012, while drug courts saw a $17 million increase to $52 million and BOP drug treatment programs saw a $16 million increase to $109 million.

The new drug budget also resurrects the drug czar’s widely criticized National Youth Media Campaign, dropped last year when Congress failed to fund it.

“I’m also disappointed that they put back in funding for the drug czar’s failed youth media campaign, which Congress eliminated last year,” said Piper. “It’s only $20 million, and you can hardly do a national media campaign with that, but still.”

This is only the administration’s budget proposal, of course, and Congress will have plenty of opportunities to try to cut (or increase) portions of it. Still, the proposed budget is a window on the thinking of administration that has talked the talk about how we are no longer in a war on drugs, but has taken only stumblingly tiny steps toward walking the walk. And drug reformers aren’t liking what they’re seeing.

“LEAP thinks this is misguided,” said Dunagan. “The only thing that’s different is the rhetoric used to spin it, and even that is a sort of tacit acknowledgment by the administration that people don’t really like the drug war, but substantively, there’s very little different from the past.”

“Between the drug budgets and his war on medical marijuana, we’re very disappointed in Obama,” said DPA’s Piper.

“We should be disappointed in the Obama administration,” said Sterling. “There was supposed to be change. This was the University of Chicago law professor, the Harvard-trained lawyer, who was going to bring in his own people and make real change. I’m very disappointed in his drug policies and criminal justice policies. My disappointment with his policy failures don’t have anything to do with the economic crisis or the geostrategic situation he inherited.

Article From StoptheDrugWar.orgCreative Commons Licensing


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  1. No, I don’t really love it.  Obama has made a complete mockery of the war on weed and has continued it and is no different from his predecessors.  More police, more arrests, more prisons, more broken families due to this continued war because of a fucking plant.  Even I’m getting pulled over by cops wanting to “see what you’re up to”.  Yep, we live in the era of Obama and the WAR ON WEED RAGES ON UNABATED. 

  2. I just love the smartass look on his face.  Laughing at us is what he’s doing. 

  3. Ron Paul is a puppet to. They all are, but I do not let myself be mind controlled by MSM or any other worthless government fucks. :)

  4. He must protect the jobs of the DEA and the nations prison guards at all costs! President Obama has already publicly mocked those questioning his drug policies, and while it is true that the Republicans would not better the cause of legalization or medical use, voters need to tell Democrats currently in office or running for seats in the Senate or Congress that they and their President will be boycotted if they do not pressure the President to reform his drug policies to the wishes of his parties voters.

  5. 26 billion dollars?! People out of work, losing homes, poor, hungry and we spend that much on this BS? Oh, how I wish the people would revolt and take the government back to the people.

  6. if its happening with obama, what tells you its not going to happen with ron paul, i thing they were all fcking puppets…..

  7. please of course consider Ron Paul’s other extreme views as well, I was on board until I was informed of some other ideologies he supports. yes marijuana legalization is important, but it is not the only issue at stake

    wishing you the best-

  8. Obama did a 180. I hope nobody votes for him this coming election. Ron Paul wants to legalize THC. He’s got our votes.

  9. Oh its OK they are spending twenty dollars on cocaine rehab to make up for all the rhetoric from so called government experts that lie in the commercials that real scientists hate.

  10. marijuana illegalization acts as a gateway into criminal behaviour like you wouldnt believe. if they legalized the stuff you would see crime rates drop everywhere and less drug addicts. that means less murder, rape , theft , and just about any other crime you could imagine. i truley believe if you wanted to get rid of the badguys and produce more good citizens in society today then legalizing this stuff is a homerun out of the ballpark. ultimatley we would have a society that values our laws more and thats the kind of america we want. you may think my opinion is crazy but ive studied this very in depth and the legal nature of this plant actually creates way more crime and harm then it prevents.

  11. I dont think its up to Obama he just dos whot he is told by all the other war mongers someone is pulling the strings and hes the pupet my frends

  12. To his defense, (I don’t enjoy this either) the increase falls below annual inflation, which is around 3% I believe.
    That said, this is a purely political move, could you imagine what the GOP would do if they found Obama cutting drug enforcement money?
    The fundies would eviscerate him over it, and god knows if anyone from the GOP actually won this year (excluding Ron Paul), we’d likely see a much more severe escalation of the drug war.

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