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Obama's Drug Czar Favors Law Enforcement Above Treatment


(The Raw Story via “We’re not at war with people in this country,” [US Drug Czar Gil] Kerlikowske told The Wall Street Journal in May.

However, if the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s (ONDCP) budget for fiscal year 2011 is to be believed, Kerlikowske was full of hot air.

According to 2011 funding “highlights” released by the ONDCP (PDF link), the Obama administration is growing the drug war and tilting its funds heavily toward law enforcement over treatment.

The president’s National Drug Control Budget also continues the Bush administration’s public relations tactic of obscuring the costs of prosecuting and imprisoning drug offenders. “Enron style accounting,” is how drug policy reform advocate Kevin Zeese described it, writing for Alternet in 2002.

The budget places America’s drug war spending at $15.5 billion for fiscal year 2011; an increase of 3.5 percent over FY 2010. That figure reflects a 5.2 percent increase in overall enforcement funding, growing from $9.7 billion in FY 2010 to $9.9 billion in FY 2011. Addiction treatment and preventative measures, however, are budgeted at $5.6 billion for FY 2011, an increase from $5.2 billion in FY 2010.

In short, the Obama administration’s appropriations for treating drug addiction are just short of half that dedicated to prosecuting the war.

The problem, of course, is that when you have declared drugs to be illegal, you must expend resources to arrest, try, and convict the people who manufacture, transport, sell, buy, and use drugs. It’s really less about the the people who use drugs than it is about the people whose jobs depend on arresting the people who use drugs.

We’re in the middle of a recession. Jobless numbers are through the roof. If marijuana were regulated like alcohol or tobacco, you suddenly add a whole bunch of DEA, police, prosecutors, wardens, guards, and more to the unemployment line. Then add in the young people who have found marijuana growing and dealing to be the only living wage job they can find, now suddenly unemployed by marijuana re-legalization, and you’ll see unemployment figures that would guarantee an Obama re-election defeat in 2012.

Yes, a legal marijuana market would open up many jobs and industries and tax revenues heretofore unrealized, but transitioning to that market is going to take time. In the meantime, what jobs are open for former drug cops and pot dealers?

We bring this up to temper our disappointment in a man who in 2004 said our “War on Drugs is an utter failure and we need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws” but in 2010 has turned into just another prohibitionist president.

(Find more information on this contradiction between the Obama Administration’s lip service toward treatment over incarceration, complete with quotes and informative graphs, at Pete Guither’s informative DrugWarRant blog.)


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