Article By Steve Elliott writer for Toke of the Town
Another budget, another year of a drug control budget disparity that prioritizes punishment over actually treating drugs as a public health issue. Will President Obama’s rhetoric ever be made into brass tacks budget reality?
A group of police officers, judges and prosecutors who have waged the so-called War On Drugs is criticizing Obama because his federal drug control budget, released Monday, doesn’t match his rhetoric on treating drug abuse as a health problem.
Obama’s federal drug control budget maintains a Bush-era disparity, devoting almost twice as much money to punishment as it does for treatment and prevention. This is despite the President saying, less than three weeks ago, “We have to think more about drugs as a public health problem,” which requires “shifting resources.”
The President’s comments came during a January 27 YouTube interview, in response to a question from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) member MacKenzie Allen, a retired deputy sheriff. (You can see video of that exchange here.)
“I don’t understand how the President can tell us with a straight face that he wants to treat drugs as a health issue but then turn around just a few weeks later and put out a budget that continues to emphasize punishment and interdiction,” said Neill Franklin, LEAP executive director and a former narcotics officer in Baltimore.
“The President needs to put his money where his mouth is,” Franklin said. “Right now it looks like he’s simply all talk and no game.”
In releasing the drug control budget Monday, the Obama Administration did reverse a Bush-era accounting trick that hid some costs of the War On Drugs, such as incarceration. But the drug control budget breakdown, available online here [PDF], clearly shows that under both the new and old calculations, supply reduction receives far more resources than does demand reduction.
“The Obama Administration does deserve credit for bringing to light some of the costs of the ‘War On Drugs’ that the Bush Administration tried to obscure from public scrutiny,” Franklin said. “But mere accounting changes aren’t going to reduce our prison population, improve our economy or put violent gangs and cartels out of business. Only real changes to drug policy, like legalizing and regulating drugs, can help us achieve those important goals.”