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Big Name Panel Calls Global Drug War a "Failure" [FEATURE]

The global war on drugs is a failure and governments worldwide should shift from repressive, law-enforcement centered policies to new ways of legalizing and regulating drugs, especially marijuana, as a means of reducing harm to individuals and society, a high-profile group of world leaders said in a report issued last Thursday.

Richard Branson blogs about being invited onto the global commission, on virgin.com.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy, whose members include former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former presidents of Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico, said the global prohibitionist approach to drug policy, in place since the UN adopted the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs a half-century ago, has failed to reduce either the drug supply or consumption.

Citing UN figures, the report said global marijuana consumption rose more than 8% and cocaine use 27% in the decade between 1998 and 2008. Again citing UN figures, the group estimated that there are some 250 million illegal drug consumers worldwide. "We simply cannot treat them all as criminals," the report concluded.

The report also argued that arresting "tens of millions" of low-level dealers, drug couriers, and drug-producing farmers not only failed to reduce production and consumption, but also failed to address the economic needs that pushed people into the trade in the first place.

Prohibitionist approaches also foster violence, most notably in the case of Mexico, the group argued, and impede efforts to stop the spread of diseases like HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis. Governments should instead turn to science- and evidence-based public health and harm reduction approaches, the group said. It cited studies of nations like Portugal and Australia, where the decriminalization of at least some drugs has not led to significantly greater use.

"Overwhelming evidence from Europe, Canada and Australia now demonstrates the human and social benefits both of treating drug addiction as a health rather than criminal justice problem and of reducing reliance on prohibitionist policies," said former Swiss president Ruth Dreifuss. "These policies need to be adopted worldwide, with requisite changes to the international drug control conventions."

The report offered a number of recommendations for global drug policy reform, including:

  • End the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others.
  • Encourage experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs (especially cannabis) to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens.
  • Ensure that a variety of treatment modalities are available -- including not just methadone and buprenorphine treatment but also the heroin-assisted treatment programs that have proven successful in many European countries and Canada.
  • Apply human rights and harm reduction principles and policies both to people who use drugs as well as those involved in the lower ends of illegal drug markets such as farmers, couriers and petty sellers.

"Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the US government's global war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed," said former president of Brazil Fernando Henrique Cardoso. "Let's start by treating drug addiction as a health issue, reducing drug demand through proven educational initiatives, and legally regulating rather than criminalizing cannabis."

"The war on drugs has failed to cut drug usage, but has filled our jails, cost millions in tax payer dollars, fuelled organized crime and caused thousands of deaths. We need a new approach, one that takes the power out of the hands of organized crime and treats people with addiction problems like patients, not criminals," said Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group and cofounder of The Elders, United Kingdom. "The good news is new approaches focused on regulation and decriminalization have worked. We need our leaders, including business people, looking at alternative, fact based approaches. We need more humane and effective ways to reduce the harm caused by drugs. The one thing we cannot afford to do is to go on pretending the war on drugs is working."

The Obama administration is having none of it. "Making drugs more available -- as this report suggests -- will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe," Rafael Lemaitre, spokesman for the Office of National Drug Control Policy told the Wall Street Journal the same day the report was released.

That sentiment is in line with earlier pronouncements from the administration that while it will emphasize a public health approach to drug policy, it stands firm against legalization. "Legalizing dangerous drugs would be a profound mistake, leading to more use, and more harmful consequences," drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said earlier this year.

But if the White House isn't listening, US drug reformers are -- and they're liking what they're hearing.

"It's no longer a question of whether legalizing drugs is a serious topic of debate for serious people," said Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and a 34-year veteran police officer from Baltimore, Maryland. "These former presidents and other international leaders have placed drug legalization squarely on the table as an important solution that policymakers need to consider. As a narcotics cop on the streets, I saw how the prohibition approach not only doesn't reduce drug abuse but how it causes violence and crime that affect all citizens and taxpayers, whether they use drugs or not."

"These prominent world leaders recognize an undeniable reality. The use of marijuana, which is objectively less harmful than alcohol, is widespread and will never be eliminated," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "They acknowledge that there are only two choices moving forward. We can maintain marijuana's status as a wholly illegal substance and steer billions of dollars toward drug cartels and other criminal actors. Or, we can encourage nations to make the adult use of marijuana legal and have it sold in regulated stores by legitimate, taxpaying business people. At long last, we have world leaders embracing the more rational choice and advocating for legal, regulated markets for marijuana. We praise these world leaders for their willingness to advocate for this sensible approach to marijuana policy."

"The long-term impact of the Global Commission's efforts will be defining," predicted David Borden, executive director of StoptheDrugWar.org (publisher of this newsletter). "Most people don't realize that there are leaders of this stature who believe prohibition causes much of the harm commonly seen as due to drugs. As more and more people hear these arguments, coming from some of the most credible people on the planet, legalization will come to be viewed as a credible and realistic option."

Other commission members include Louise Arbour, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Canada; Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil (chair); Marion Caspers-Merk, former State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Health; Maria Cattaui former Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce, Switzerland; Carlos Fuentes, writer and public intellectual, Mexico; Asma Jahangir, human rights activist, former UN Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary, Extrajudicial and Summary Executions, Pakistan; Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria , France; Mario Vargas Llosa, writer and public intellectual, Peru; George Papandreou, Prime Minister of Greece; George P. Shultz, former Secretary of State, United States (honorary chair); Javier Solana, former European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy , Spain; Thorvald Stoltenberg, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Norway; Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve and of the Economic Recovery Board; John Whitehead, banker and civil servant, chair of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, United States; and Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico.

While the Obama administration may be loathe to listen, the weight of world opinion, as reflected in the composition of the global commission that issued this report, is starting to create stress fractures in the wall of prohibition. A half-century of global drug prohibition has showed us what it can deliver, and the world is increasingly finding it wanting.

Drug Czar Might be the Worst Job in American Politics

Following up on the news that the Drug Czar is looking for a new job, I have a piece in the Huffington Post looking at how the current political climate is rendering the Drug Czar's office irrelevant. Issues like marijuana legalization are taking off and threatening to destroy the legacy of anyone who stands in the way. More here.

Drug Czar Doesn't Want to be Drug Czar Anymore

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/drugczar.png

It's hard to imagine a worse job than defending the drug war every single day, and it looks as though Gil Kerlikowske has had about all he can take:

President Barack Obama‘s drug czar is among the contenders to become the first Chicago police superintendent in Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel‘s administration, the Chicago News Cooperative has learned.

Gil Kerlikowske, whose formal title is director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, met last week with Emanuel in Chicago and was in town again over the weekend for an interview with the police board, sources told the CNC. (Chicago News Cooperative)

This could make for an early end to Kerlikowske's term as head cheerleader for the U.S. War on Drugs, but it isn't hugely surprising. He struck me as a rather reluctant drug czar, willing to read the script, but uninspired when it came to the dirty game of D.C. drug war politics. I'm tempted to speculate that he never fully appreciated the extent to which the job simply involved performing public relations duties as Americans grow increasingly disgusted with everything that office stands for.

His recent clash with the Seattle Times over a marijuana legalization editorial made for some pretty embarrassing press and really cemented the already well-understood nature of the drug czar position as basically a cranky government stooge who wags his finger at proponents of policy reform. It's not glamorous work, but worse, it isn't even important in any of the ways that someone like Kerlikowske would want it to be. You don't get to fix or change anything, so unless you love the drug war exactly the way it is, the job is utterly unrewarding.

If Kerlikowske does move on, it will be the second high-ranking departure from ONDCP under Obama, and it should raise new questions about what the hell actually goes on over there.

White House Requests Meeting with Seattle Times to Bully Against Pro-Marijuana Editorials

Location: 
WA
United States
Immediately after the Seattle Times ran an editorial last week supporting a bill to tax and regulate marijuana, the newspaper got a phone call from Washington, D.C. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy director Gil Kerlikowske wanted to fly to Seattle to speak personally with the paper's full editorial board. The meeting is apparently an attempt by the federal government to pressure the state's largest newspaper to oppose marijuana legalization. Or at least turn down the volume on its new-found bullhorn to legalize it.
Publication/Source: 
Salem-News.com (OR)
URL: 
http://www.salem-news.com/articles/february282011/seattle-pot-kerlikowske.php

Congressman: Eliminate the War on Drugs

Colorado congressman Jared Polis wants to drastically reduce the federal government's funding of the war on drugs. He has introduced amendments to the Full Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011 that, if passed, would virtually eliminate money spent to fight drug crimes. The first amendment, No. 501, proposes to eradicate funding of the drug czar. The second amendment, No. 427, would prohibit the investigation and criminal prosecution for the possession, manufacture or distribution of marijuana. Polis believes that the drug czar's office is not only unnecessary, but has proven to be more harmful than helpful in the case of marijuana.
Publication/Source: 
Gather (MA)
URL: 
http://politics.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474979065488

The 2012 Federal Drug Budget: More of the Same [FEATURE]

The Obama administration released its a href="http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/policy/12budget/fy12Highlight.pdf">proposed 2012 National Drug Control Budget Monday and, despite President Obama's statement just over two weeks ago that the federal government needed to "shift resources" to have a smarter, more effective federal drug policy emphasizing public health approaches, there is little sign of any resource shifting.

Drug War Autopilot and Co-Autopilot: ONDCP Director Gil Kerlikowske with President Obama
Although budget documents said the administration seeks "a balanced approach" of prevention, treatment, and domestic and international law enforcement, law enforcement continues to get the lion's share of federal drug dollars. Of the more than $26 billion allocated for federal drug control efforts, nearly 60% would go to "supply reduction" (read: domestic and international drug law enforcement and military interdiction) and only 40% would go to treatment and prevention.

And in a time when the clamor for deficit reductions and budget cuts grows louder by the day, the Obama administration drug budget actually increases by 1.3% over 2010. That means it could be in for a rough ride when congressional appropriations committees get their hands on it, although no Republican leaders have yet commented on it.

[Editor's Note: All year-to-year comparisons are to Fiscal Year 2010 because Congress still hasn't passed a FY 2011 budget.]

On the other hand, at least the administration is being honest. Since 2004, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office), which produces the drug budget, under drug czar John Walters had used accounting legerdemain to substantially understate the real costs of federal drug control by not including the drug component in the work of a number of different federal agencies. Using the understated figures, this year's drug budget would have appeared to have been only $15.3 billion instead of the more accurate $26.2 billion, with a false appearance of equality between supply-side and demand-side funding.

[Editor's Note: Bush-era drug czar John Walters stated directly, in response to a question I asked at an event, that they omitted budget items that included drug control but were not 100% about drug control -- claiming that made the numbers "more accurate," but not explaining how that made sense in any way. -DB]

"At least they finally got around to fixing the accounting problem," said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance."It took them five years after Congress told them to fix it, but at least they are showing the true cost of things, like incarceration."

But neither Piper nor representatives of other drug reform groups had much else nice to say about the budget. "It's very much like last year's budget, with most money going to ineffective supply side programs and not enough going to treatment," Piper said. "You have the president and the drug czar talking about treating drug abuse as a public health issue just weeks ago, but their budget continues to treat it as a law enforcement and military issue."

"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, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and a former narcotics officer in Baltimore. "The president needs to put his money where his mouth is. Right now it looks like he's simply all talk and no game."

"I see this similarly to Obama's approach on needle exchange and crack sentencing -- the president supported those reforms verbally, but did nothing else to help them at first, even when he had the opportunity," said David Borden, executive director of StoptheDrugWar.org, publisher of this newsletter. "But when Congress was ready to take them on, the administration provided enough support to get them through. Obama has also supported the idea of shifting the drug budget's priorities, but again has done nothing whatsoever to make it happen. Maybe what he wants is for Congress to do the heavy lifting on this as well. If so, our movement's task is to propose a politically viable new version of the budget that does change the priorities, to build support for it in Congress, and then look for the administration to get on board."

"We're definitely going to be focused on cutting funding to the drug war during the congressional appropriations process," said Piper. "We're already meeting with both Republicans and Democrats to increase support for cutting funding to the Byrne grants, the media campaign, and other ineffective drug war programs. I don't think there are any sacred cows now, and our goal is to get the drug war on the chopping block along with everything else."

While there are individual programs that saw cuts in both the treatment and prevention side and the law enforcement side, only in the realm of international anti-drug assistance was there an overall decrease in spending. Although the budget funds foreign assistance at $2.1 billion, that is $457 million less than the 2010 budget, a decrease of 17%. The decrease results from the winding down of Plan Colombia funding, a shift from expensive technologies for Mexico to more programmatic aid, and the re-jiggering of some of the Afghanistan anti-drug spending to be counted as "rule of law" spending.

Proposed spending on interdiction is set at $3.9 billion, an increase of $243 million over 2010 levels. The departments of Defense and Homeland Security account for the bulk of that spending, which includes an increase of $210 million for border security and port of entry facilitation on the US-Mexico border.

But international anti-drug aid and interdiction spending are dwarfed by domestic drug law enforcement, which would gobble up $9.5 billion under the Obama drug budget, an increase of $315 million over 2010 levels, or 3.4%. Unsurprisingly, the single largest domestic law enforcement expenditure is $3.46 billion to incarcerate federal drug war prisoners.

[Editor's Note: In the budget, the authors refer to high federal corrections costs because of the high number of drug war prisoners -- they make up well over half the more than 200,000 federal prisoners -- as "a consequence of drug abuse," when those costs are more than anything a consequence of public policy decisions made over decades.]

The Office of Justice Grants program, which includes the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants used to fund anti-drug multi-jurisdiction law enforcement task forces, would be slashed substantially, from $3.52 billion in 2010 to $2.96 billion in 2012, but on the other hand, the Justice Department 2012 budget contains $600 million to hire and retain 4,500 new police officers.

"It's encouraging that they cut funding for the Byrne grants," said Piper, "but they're increasing funding for the COPS program. The money is still going to law enforcement, but cutting those grants is a step in the right direction."

There are a few law enforcement side losers in addition to the Byrne grants. The DEA budget is down slightly, from $2.05 billion in 2010 to $2.01 billion in 2012, but that reflects supplemental spending for the southwest border that was included in 2010. The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program, which has evolved into a prime example of pork, saw its funding slashed to $200 million, down from $239 million.

And while overall treatment and prevention funding was up slightly, by 1% and 8% respectively, those increases are relatively slight, and there are some losers there, too. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Prevention grant program would decline from $565 million in 2010 to $550 million in 2012, Drug Free Communities funding would decline from $95 million to $89 million, and substance abuse treatment Medicaid grants to the states would decline from $3.78 billion to $3.57 billion.

On the plus side, spending for the Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students grant program would increase from $177 million to $267 million, Medicare treatment spending would increase by about 10% to $1.463 billion, Substance Abuse Treatment Block Grant funding would increase fractionally, and reentry funding under the Second Chance Act would increase from $30 million to $50 million.

The much criticized ONDCP youth media campaign would remain at $45 million, and the mostly praised drug court program would also remain unchanged, at $57 million.

All in all, despite slight changes in emphasis, the 2012 federal drug control budget is much of a muchness with previous drug budgets, despite the Obama administration's lip service about changing priorities and embracing the public health paradigm.

"Everyone wants to cut federal spending somehow," said Piper. "It seems that cutting the drug war would be an easy way to do that without cutting funds to the poor, to education, and other desirable social programs. Obama has said how sad he was to have to cut programs he likes, but he probably could have saved those programs by cutting funding for the drug war."

Washington, DC
United States

US Drug Czar Supports Venezuela Shooting Down "Drug Planes"

Over the weekend, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said his country should consider shooting down drug-carrying planes. On Tuesday, US drug czar Gil Kerlikowske seemed to signal his approval of the idea.

Hugo Chavez is open to shooting down suspected drug planes (image via Wikimedia)
Chavez told lawmakers Saturday he is considering letting the military shoot down drug-laden planes if they ignore orders to land. Drug smugglers often ignore military orders to land and sometimes mock those orders over the radio, Chavez said. He added that he doesn't necessarily like the idea of shooting down planes, but that parliament should debate it.

Although no coca is grown in Venezuela, the country has become a major hub for drug traffickers smuggling Colombian cocaine. The Venezuelan government has been criticized by the US over the use of its territory by drug traffickers, but Venezuela contends that despite its lack of cooperation with the DEA, it is doing all it can to stifle the trade.

US drug czar Kerlikowske was in Colombia on a three-day trip when he commented on Chavez's remarks. "Venezuela has expressed clearly its support for curbing drug trafficking by air," he said, adding that other countries in the region should adopt similar measures.

The US supported a similar program in Peru beginning in the Clinton administration and even provided CIA and military personnel to support it. But that program came to a crashing halt after a Peruvian Air Force fighter jet shot down a plane carrying American missionaries in 2001, killing Veronica Bowers and her infant daughter.

Venezuela

A Revealing Conversation with the Drug Czar

In case you haven't seen it yet, the latest issue of The Nation is loaded with enough excellent drug policy coverage to keep you busy for hours. There's a heavy focus on the case for reform, but Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske also stops in for a long interview that I might find encouraging if we hadn't heard all of this stuff from him before.

"…merely trying to make arrests, make seizures, trying to incarcerate, is not a particularly smart way of addressing the drug problem."

"…understanding treatment can be effective and it's half the cost of incarceration."

"Arresting people for violations around drugs is not in many cases the smartest way to deal with the disease of addiction."

"We're a country that has a greater imprisonment rate than any other country in the world."

"…we can't arrest our way out of the problem."

"It'll take a while to not only convince ourselves that this isn't the best way to deal with the problem, but it will take longer to convince our foreign counterparts that we are being smarter about how we approach the drug problem."

Once again, we find the drug czar borrowing our talking points in a cynical attempt to feign sympathy for the increasingly popular idea that our drug policy is just a colossal disaster. As the war rages on, it's easy to dismiss such appeals to public frustration as nothing more than desperate and disingenuous pandering from an agency that's long struggled to maintain relevance. That's basically what we have here. But it's also an important milestone for our movement that the nation's official drug war cheerleader now believes he can enhance his credibility by presenting himself as a reformer.

But alas, this is the drug czar we're talking about, and no matter how hard he tries to change the tone, it's still just a matter of time before he slips up:

Well, you saw Bill Bennett, the first drug czar, supporting the drug policy this administration released. I've heard from former Attorney General Ed Meese, and others, that looking at this policy is smart. I've also been up on Capitol Hill, speaking with a number of incumbent members and staff members who see this policy as being a smart way to go after the drug problem.

He lost me at Bill Bennett. The endorsement of two notorious drug warriors and the U.S. Congress isn't at all what I'm looking for in a balanced and sensible drug policy. The fact that he would even go there is just such a perfect illustration of how the same twisted minds still exert forceful and perverse influence over our policymaking. Until the legacy of people like Bennett is firmly rejected and condemned, any discussion of taking things in a new direction is an obvious fraud.

Despite Pot Prohibition, Teen Marijuana Use Continues Slight Upward Trend

Marijuana use by 8th, 10th, and 12th graders increased slightly this year, according to figures released Tuesday by the annual Monitoring the Future survey of junior and senior high school students. Meanwhile, the percentage of students who see "great risk" in regular marijuana use continues a slight decline. In both cases, this year's figures reflect a continuation of a trend beginning about five years ago.

More than one in five (21.4%) of high school seniors reported using marijuana within the past 30 days. While that figure is higher than any year since 2002, it is in line with usage rates reported throughout the late 1990s and into the first year of the new millennium. In that period, 30-day usage rates among seniors ranged between 21.2% and 23.7%.

Although the latest teen drug use figures show that teen marijuana use is roughly stable over the past fifteen years, Office of National Drug Control Policy head Gil Kerlikowske was quick to lay blame on "mixed messages" from the effort to end marijuana prohibition.

"The increases in youth drug use reflected in the Monitoring the Future Study are disappointing," he said Tuesday. "And mixed messages about drug legalization, particularly marijuana legalization, may be to blame. Such messages certainly don’t help parents who are trying to prevent young people from using drugs."

Drug reform organizations, unsurprisingly, had a different take on the numbers. Both the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) were quick to blame not legalization talk but actually existing pot prohibition.

“It’s really no surprise that more American teenagers are using marijuana and continue to say it’s easy to get. Our government has spent decades refusing to regulate marijuana in order to keep it out of the hands of drug dealers who aren’t required to check customer ID and have no qualms about selling marijuana to young people,” said MPP executive director Rob Kampia. “The continued decline in teen tobacco use is proof that sensible regulations, coupled with honest, and science-based public education can be effective in keeping substances away from young people. It’s time we acknowledge that our current marijuana laws have utterly failed to accomplish one of their primary objectives – to keep marijuana away from young people – and do the right thing by regulating marijuana, bringing its sale under the rule of law, and working to reduce the unfettered access to marijuana our broken laws have given teenagers.” 

“Opponents of any change in America’s failed drug policies always throw out the myth that talking about reform sends a dangerous message to teens," said Bill Piper, national affairs head for DPA.  "Fifteen states (plus Washington, DC) have legalized marijuana for medical use and 13 states have deciminalized marijuana for personal use. Decades of research have consistently demonstrated that marijuana use rates in those states go up and down at roughly the same rates as in other states."

Piper pointed out that the annual gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over miniscule changes in the number of teens smoking pot laws is largely theater. The drivers of drug use are complex and have little to do with the moral crusade of the day in Washington. 

"The truth is that drug use rates fluctuate all the time and this fluctuation rarely has anything to do with what politicians are debating," Piper said. "Studies around the world have found that the relative harshness of drug laws matters surprisingly little. After all, rates of illegal drug use in the United States are higher than those in Europe, despite our more punitive policies. Look at US tobacco policy. Both teen and adult tobacco use is at record lows and we are achieving that without criminalization and mass arrests. And because it is legal the government can control, regulate and tax it – unlike marijuana or other prohibited drugs."

Indeed, teen pot smoking continues its slight upward trend despite the huge number of pot arrests each year—more than 850,000 last year alone.

"The US made almost 860,000 arrests for marijuana last year, including 760,000 arrests for mere possession, yet teen marijuana use is on the rise," Piper noted. "The moral of this story is that a public health approach and honest drug education works — and criminalization doesn’t."

Heritage Foundation Says Cut Drug Czar's Office, Byrne Grants, More

In an attempt to provide some specifics for Republican promises to reduce the budget deficit by cutting federal spending, the conservative Heritage Foundation has issued a backgrounder report saying Congress should eliminate the Office of National Drug Control Policy (the drug czar's office), the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities state grant program, and all Justice Department grant programs, except those for the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Institute of Justice. That means the drug task force-funding Justice Assistance Grants (JAG, formerly known as the Byrne grant) are on the chopping block, too.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/director_kerlikoske.jpg
Goodbye Gil?
The report said the federal government could cut a whopping $434 billion and the savings could come from eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and outdated or ineffective programs;consolidating duplicative programs, targeting programs more precisely, privatization, and "empowering state and local governments" by reducing federal funding for them.

Taxpayers could save $30 million by axing the "duplicative" drug czar's office and $298 million by eliminating the Safe and Drug Free Schools state grants, which are used for violence and drug and alcohol prevention programs. The Byrne grant program, which can also be used to fund drug treatment and prevention, is set at $598 million in the Obama administration's FY 2011 budget request. 

The drug budget cuts are only a tiny fraction of  the $343 billion that Heritage said should be cut. The report takes the budget ax to nearly $20 billion in agriculture funding, nearly $8 billion in community development grants, nearly $8 billion in federal education spending, more than $7 billion in energy and environmental spending, nearly $92 billion from federal government operations (including federal employee pay freezes), and nearly $7 billion by cutting federal job training and Job Corps funds.

If the cuts proposed by the Heritage Foundation in its entirety were to be enacted, they would radically shrink the federal government and redraw the picture of what the people expect from government. But the Republicans only control one chamber of Congress, some of the proposed cuts could lead to dissent even within GOP ranks, and Democrats and people who stand to lose out are sure to fight them.

Still, it would be nice if the spirit of bipartisanship could prevail long enough to begin closing the book on decades of wasted and counter-productive federal drug prohibition spending, even though we wouldn't want to see proven prevention programs slashed.

Washington, DC
United States

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