Meet Obama's Proposed 2013 Federal Drug Budget [FEATURE]

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.

Drug War Autopilot and Co-Autopilot: ONDCP Director Gil Kerlikowske with President Obama
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."

"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 billion to $2.38 billion. 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 SAMHSA, which funds a lot of treatment, but increasing spending for prison-based treatment."

The $364 million earmarked for SAMHSA'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.

Washington, DC
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
Looking for the easiest way to join the anti-drug war movement? You've found it! spend and fail, no spend and fail, no news here

The Union is an excellent

The Union is an excellent 2007 documentary on Cannabis Prohibition.  Share this link everywhere, we need to get numbers on our side.  A lot of people are still mis-informed:

Eric Sterling's disappointment

I am among Eric Sterling's most fervent admirers, but I don't agree with him when he says, "...[Obama's] policy failures don't have anything to do with the economic crisis or the geostrategic situation he inherited."  Everything is connected, and the military-industrial complex is more responsible for our economic and geostrategic messes than anything else.  I don't think the Drug War can be ended without loosening the military-industrial complex's stranglehold on the American economy, and on life in these United States.  First we must perceive our situation as enslavement to a vast imperial machine, and then we must gather the courage to end that enslavement.  I'd be happy to be surprised by an early end to the drug war, but I'm not holding my breath.

I do not like Ron Paul, and there's very little I agree with him about, but I sadly expect to be voting for him.  He's the only candidate who speaks to the central problem.  The central problem is not the drug war; the drug war is only a symptom.  The central problem is that the rule of law has been superseded by the imperatives of empire.  The Drug War is at least partly an artifact of the military-industrial complex's stranglehold on the economy of the United States.  The military-industrial complex owned the Clintons, it owned Bush/Cheney, and it is impossible to ignore the fact that it owns the Obama administration, too.  President Eisenhower, who knew exactly what he was talking about, warned us very clearly, but money has been speaking louder than Ike for more than 50 years.  Where we are now is exactly where Ike feared we would be -- in a place where liberty is less important than profit.

The Union High Quality


This is by far one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. It doesn't only show that marijuana should have no criminal penalties but it also shows how important it once was to our society and still can be. Not only that but it explains many interesting facts a lot of people did not know about not only marijuana but our government and our economy. I highly reccomend this to anyone especially people in favor of keeping it legal. Should make some people think twice before they make an opinion.

  In the U.S. alone: every



In the U.S. alone:


every year 400,000 people die from cigarettes, and they're legal.

every year 50,000 people die from alcohol, and it's legal.

every year 10,000 people die from FDA approved prescription drugs.

every year 1000-3000 people die from caffeine related symptoms, and it's perfectly legal FOR ALL AGES?


Yet, NOBODY, I repeat NOBDOY has EVER died from Marijuana use in the history of the WORLD. You can't find any cases, ANYWHERE.


...b...but... it's a g..gateway drug... right? if you do it, then you're going to move on to heroin, and crack and meth right?

No actually. Less than 1 in 100 marijuana users use cocaine, and even less use meth or heroin. Just because hard drug users used Marijuana before they used their hard drugs doesn't mean it's the cause of their hard drug use. And I'D BET that before the hard drug users tried marijuana, they tried alcohol first, which would make alcohol the gateway drug wouldn't it? No wait, they actually tried water first. Since 100% of drug addicts use water, water must be the biggest gateway drug of all!

(see how this logic doesn't make sense?)

What about killing brain cells, and causing cancer? My health textbooks told me that!


1. For a substance to be able to kill ANY cells in the human body, it would have to be toxic to some degree. Marijuana is NON TOXIC, which is why it is impossible to overdose on. Scientists say one would have to smoke 15,000 joints in less than an hour to kill someone. The whole "it kills brain cells" idea originated from an experiment during the Reagan administration, and the test that "confirmed" it was extremely poorly conducted. What they did was, they pumped monkeys pure THC through gas masks for 15 minutes each day, and after a while, the monkeys were practically brain dead. BUT, that is because the monkeys weren't given enough oxygen, so they were SUFFOCATED. That's why their brain cells died. To this day, only a few know the origin of this study.


2. Marijuana does not cause cancer. While Marijuana SMOKE may contain numerous carcinogens, vaporized marijuana and eaten marijuana contains no carcinogens at all. But even smoking Marijuana doesn't cause cancer, even though the smoke has carcinogens. Why, you ask? Because Marijuana itself actually KILLS CANCER CELLS, and prevents them from forming. There are numerous cases of people using THC in smoked marijuana, hemp oil, and more to actually CURE their different forms of cancer. Hemp oil rubbed on the skin can cure skin cancer. Smoked marijuana can cure lung cancer (vaporization would be more effective however).

Don't believe me?

-watch the video on the website. It shows cases where marijuana cured cancer. And these people aren't just kids making stuff up. These are real doctors, and real people with real experiences.


What about addiction? Marijuana is super addictive right?

No, No, and NO. Marijuana is not physically addictive, and is only psychologically addictive. Like computer addiction or video game addiction. Many marijuana users can simply quit cold turkey after regular long term use, and feel fine. Alcohol, Tobacco, and even caffeine ARE physically addictive. Alcoholics, and tobacco smokers go through serious withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit, and even long term regular caffeine users get serious headaches when they stop quit.


Um... drugs like Marijuana... cause violence, and ruin our society?

If you know anything about Marijuana, you'd know that when someone is high off it, they don't get violent or do extremely stupid things like people who are drunk from alcohol. It's just mostly relaxation and mellowness. While some people can get extremely lazy while high, others can be extremely productive while high and get work done without people even knowing that they're high! I know people that can do this.


If we can survive a society where the majority of the population drinks alcohol, a deadly poison, where alcoholics beat their wives and children because they're too drunk to control themselves, where bar fights with drunk men are considered normal, where people can have a glass of high alcohol content wine during dinner, then we could definitely survive a society with Marijuana being legal FOR ADULTS.


Legalization of Marijuana wouldn't make it legal for everyone. Only for ADULTS. I do not think that children should use marijuana, not because of the health effects (what health effects?), but because children are not ready to experience any kind of mind altering drug, except for medical purposes.


Marijuana use is VICTIMLESS CRIME, so why is it even illegal at all?

If your argument is that "Well, it's illegal, so it must be bad", then you really need to get with the times, and learn why it is actually illegal to begin with. None of the reasons are health related, but economically (William Hearst's timber interests being threatened by hemp) and racially motivated ("Makes a black man think he can look at a white woman twice" was popular anti "Marijuana" propaganda)... Marijuana itself is a slang term, it's real name is Cannabis Sativa and it's been legal far longer than it's been illegal in the scheme of things. How did a so called enlightened, democratic, progressive culture get to declaring a PLANT that has NEVER killed anyone, illegal, while Alcohol, Tobacco, and Rx Drugs kill hundreds of thousands a year?

Think about it for a second. At first it was made illegal out of racism and selfish reasons by the government in 1937, because many mexican immigrants used marijuana, and of course, the government wasn't too fond of immigrants. So by prohibiting marijuana, it would help deal with the "mexican problem", so to speak.

Now, it is still illegal for several reasons, however, none of those reasons are just. There is no other plant on the face of the Earth that has as many uses as Marijuana. Not only is Marijuana (hemp), the strongest natural fiber known to man, but it is also one of most useful plants on earth for energy; biofuel. But even growing industrial hemp is illegal, even though the THC levels are so low that it would be nearly impossible to get high from it (hysterical eh?). It has the most medical uses of any plant in the world. Marijuana can treat Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, AIDS/HIV, chronic pain, nausea, depression, eating disorders, glaucoma, involuntary muscle spasms, and more. Think of all the prescription drugs you would need to treat those things, and the majority of the prescription drugs are deadly and have horrible side effects. With Marijuana, you have the most effective medicine on the planet. It has been used for over 6000 years as medicine in many many cultures, even in the United States prior to 1937.

Marijuana seeds also are extremely rich in nutrients, tons of protein, essential oils like Omega 3, amino acids, vitamins, and all that good stuff.


Isn't it ironic, that arguably the most useful plant on the entire face of the earth is illegal? Think about it, if a plant can have all these uses, from medicine, to food, to fuel, to fiber, and of course for recreational uses, why is it banned? Because it's too much competition! Imagine if Marijuana was legal and culturally accepted? The pharmaceuticals would go out of business because many many conditions could just be treated with a plant that anyone could grow, and that cannot be patented. The DEA would lose tons of jobs too, because they'd have nobody to bully with their evil ways! The tobacco industry would lose so much profit too, because people could switch to the SAFER marijuana! Those reasons, are why Marijuana is illegal.


"the safest therapeutic substance known to man" - DEA Judge Francis Young


"Prohibition... goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control mans' appetite through legislation and makes a crime out of things that are not even crimes... A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our Government was founded.

— Abraham Lincoln

Obama's Junior Status Negatively Impacts Drug Policy

Did those of us who seek radical drug policy reform (or revolution) really, honestly expect that this terribly inexperienced, clout-less, spineless presidential candidate would enact measurable change once in the Oval Office?  Did we think that he would be THE ONE who finally would change the country's approach to drug policy, making it more humane, reasonable, rational, and EVIDENCE-based?  Seriously, the new kid on the block who's constantly buffeted on all sides by Tea Partiers, Republicans of every stripe, and even members of his own party?  It's amazing that little Obama can manage to pick out his own clothes for the day.  Seems like Congressional veto would dictate every sartorial choice, right down to socks and cufflinks.  

Obama is no better than Bush or Clinton on the drug policy front.  Same old, same old.  What we need is an insurgency, an overthrow of the existing government's drug war apparatus.  This isn't a war on drugs; it's a war on drug USERS.  Drug dependence and addiction -- what our elected leaders seem to despise (and likely fear) the most -- are MEDICAL issues, not criminal matters.  But remember, Obama isn't a doctor; he's not a scientist or a researcher; he's not even a policy maker.  He's a POLITICIAN.  A sane, humane drug policy would divest enforcement almost entirely (after all, we already have lawyers, guns, and money devoted to the curbing of violent crime, whether it's drug related or not) and route it to prevention, treatment, and the well-documented PROVEN gaggle of interventions under the HARM REDUCTION rubric.

"Life's all about your expectations," my father always said.  Well, from Obama I expect NOTHING but the same tired old paramilitary approach to the disease of addiction.  From the public, the voters and taxpayers, I expect more.  I expect anger, action, and some day, revolt.   Then again, I won't hold my breath, for we live in a country whose citizens fear their government, which is ironic given that our "founding fathers" intentionally created a government that would fear its citizenry, a balance of power they viewed as appropriate ... I think they were right.  When did we become so afraid?

Seeing clearly

At least the reformers are seeing things clearly. It would be really bad if Obama could dupe us too.

Very nice article, I learned

Very nice article, I learned some things about how the drug money is split up in the federal government. Please correct "SAMSHA" to "SAMHSA" (The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).
borden's picture

thanks for the heads-up!

Thanks for the heads-up -- we have fixed the typo.

Don't Fear Marijuana

Ok so let me get this straight. In 1937 there was an estimated 13,000 pot smokers and while today the estimate is 15 million pot smokers? A 100,000% increase in usage from the day prohibition started to today? That would make prohibition the sole reason why so many people smoke marijuana. If you truly know our human nature then the obvious answer is, end prohibition and the draw to marijuana decreases back down to about a million people in 15-20 years or less.  It really is only a matter of time during this age of information of internet knowledge and wisdom when people begin to figure out the travesty of prohibition and if that day comes in 2012 sometime then perhaps the Mayans were right about a new age of enlightenment. 

The Problem

The problem with the anti-drug war lobby, in my opinion, is that its focus has shifted from advocating in favor of the right to do what you want to with your own body so long as you don't hurt someone else, to a more or less one issue approach that focuses just on marijuana prohibition.  Under that rationale, the whole debate usually devolves into the pros and cons of marijuana, potential health risks v. benefits, etc. with both sides presenting studies to bolster their respective claims.  Yet, the underlying issue is whether drug use per se should be punished by law, regardless of the manner in which the drugs are used.  In other words, there is no distinction made between responsible use and irresponsible use and even anti-drug war groups have brushed aside this fundamental question in favor of endless debates about the wonders of marijuana and its relative harmlessness in comparison with other substances (a point which is conceded by even many drug warrior types).

In the broadest terms, however, making such a distinction between irresponsible versus responsible use is of great importance, because the underlying rationale of the drug war is that there is no such thing as responsible drug use.  Drug warriors then point to the highly publicized cases of 'ruined lives' to bolster their fundamental assertion that all drug use is irresponsible (even though many of the 'ruined lives' which they hold up as evidence are ruined by becoming entangled in the justice system rather than by drug use itself). 

In my opinion, the focus of drug reform groups should be on the distinction between responsible and irresponsible use.  Only irresponsible use should be punished (just as is the case with drunk driving as opposed to being punished for drinking, itself).  If our laws were brought into line with such a rationale, they would be much more fair and clear in their application and would still leave room to punish folks for criminal acts that result from using drugs in an irresponsible manner (ie, injuring someone while driving under the influence).  The current approach underlying prohibitionist regulations is based on cultural bias rather than on any real evidence that it is inherently impossible to use drugs in a responsible manner.

Redirect war

It's not the time to continue more wastesful drug war, so it's time to rethink war priority which is high debts which may bankrupt the country like Greece & stealing our taxpayers money for future generation. Remember prohibition, it doesn't work, but regulation will work. We need to reverse drug war into debate of marijuana reform policy, so it's best to legalize marijuana for adults, medical patients, & health-industrial hemp uses.It'll revive economy for sure, but what's stopping them, maybe fear of unknown, so get informed to make better decision for all 50 states to have safe access. It's time to deschedule marijuana classification so medical dispensaries can safely operate. Stop the unholy raids that's too violence on peaceful users. It's proven that it's safer choice than legal alcohol &/or tobacco, so end drug discrimination. There's more important issue than mere marijuana, is the ever rising gas price that's worth the war on gas now.



I disagree.  The focus should

I disagree.  The focus should not just be about marijuana.  Indeed, many of the pro-marijuana folks are beginning to sound like the prohibitionists on the other side by arguing that their particular drug of choice is superior to all others and that other drugs like alcohol and tobacco should be banned and only pot should be legalized. This is the same argument that prohibitionist types have used to argue that alcohol is okay while other drugs are inherently evil. It's ironic that some marijuana advocates are taking more or less the same position as drug prohibitionists.

The real focus should not be on the comparative safety of particular drugs, but on the right of adults to use any drugs, so long as they are using them in a responsible manner without posing a danger to others.  Folks who argue that certain drugs (LSD, cocaine, heroin, or whatever) are inherently so dangerous that they must be banned are really prohibitionists at heart.

The second issue is whether an adult has the right to alter his or her state of consciousness.  The drug warriors argue that such behavior is inherently irresponsible, but provide no evidence that altering one's state of consciousness through drugs is inherently an irresponsible activity.  This is why some of them accept marijuana as a "medicine," but see it as an evil thing that people should use the drug recreationally to relax.  Once again, many of the pro-marijuana folks have fallen for the trap of arguing that marijuana is inherently safe and therefore can be used effectively as a medicine.  Eventually, marijuana will probably be fully accepted as a medicine, but recreational use will still be prohibited, because our culture rejects the notion that it is acceptable to use substances in a recreational manner.

Wars are followed by trials.

Is it really possible to spend so much money committing crimes against humanity. 

These people have no idea they are ensuring life sentences for themselves.  All wars end, regimes topple and the criminals get fair trials and long sentences.  Are you a collaborator?  Save yourself.  Switch sides before the drug war ends and you get dragged into the street by the hair and put on trial. Occupy the drug war.

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