Representatives of two groups closely concerned with federal anti-drug funding have told the Substance Abuse Funding News that the $19.2 billion 2002 federal drug budget will not be reduced or reallocated in the wake of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington. Although Congress has authorized an emergency $40 billion appropriation to make war on Osama bin Laden and earmarked an additional $15 billion to bail out US airlines, the anti-drug budget remains untouchable -- at least this year.
Sue Thau, policy analyst for the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) and Jenny Collier, director of national and state policy for the Legal Action Center, told the industry newsletter that chairmen of key congressional appropriations committees have reassured them the drug budget will remain intact. The Legal Action Center (http://www.lac.org) is a law and public policy organization concerned with ensuring non-discriminatory access to drug treatment.
CADCA (http://www.cadca.org) is the umbrella organization of more than 5,000 "grassroots" community-based anti-drug organizations funded by foundations and the US government. CADCA member organizations are among the recipients of grants from the Justice Department's Drug-Free Communities Act program, which includes $50.2 million for 2002. CADCA has been accused in the past of acting as a non-governmental propaganda arm supporting current drug policies, including the ban on medical use of marijuana.
While both Thau and Collier told SAF News the unchanged drug budgets were good news, they and similar groups, such as the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors and the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, wanted more funding. They also expressed concerns about the federal drug budget for 2003. Thau told SAF News the weakened economy and President Bush's proposed new round of tax cuts could threaten funding next year.
The "upside," said Thau, is that the sense of national emergency in the wake of the attacks is causing Congress to move swiftly on appropriations bills related to the attacks which have drug funding embedded within them. The Transportation Department appropriations bill, which contains $26 million for workplace drug testing and $32 million for anti-drunk driving and anti-underage drinking campaigns, is likely to pass quickly because it contains the airline bail-out funds. Similarly, the District of Columbia appropriations bill, which bars local funding of needle exchange programs and any effort to lessen marijuana penalties, is likely to pass quickly because it now contains $16 million for emergency planning and security programs for the capital city.
Bill McColl, director of national affairs for The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation (http://www.drugpolicy.org), told DRCNet that while this year's drug budget was "probably a lock," people on the treatment side of the issue may be in for a surprise next year. "These attacks might reinforce the law enforcement side of anti-drug spending," said McColl, "but people on the treatment side should be careful. Even though treatment is far more effective than law enforcement, it is more likely to be cut in the current atmosphere," he said. "Are these law enforcement agencies using this as an excuse to request more?" he asked. "You bet they are."
McColl, too is eyeing the 2003 drug budget. "This could be the time to start talking about priorities," he said. "Our longtime goal has been to influence the appropriations process, and we will be working on that next year."