Obama Budget Escalates War On (Some) Drugs, Slightly

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), President Obama’s 2011 National Drug Control Budget is requesting $15.5 billion “to reduce drug use and its consequences.” This represents an increase of $521.1 million, or 3.5%, over 2010. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition notes that the upcoming budget allocates in money in almost exactly the same proportions as in previous years, a “nearly two-to-one budget disparity that heavily favors spending on law enforcement and punishment over public health strategies like treatment and prevention.”

Although Obama’s new drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, declared the “drug war” a thing of the past, telling the Wall Street Journal that, “We’re not at war with people in this country,” the new budget suggests it’s drug war business as usual at a time when discretionary funding for everything except the defense budget is being frozen. Meanwhile, states – and even countries, such as Mexico – are increasingly looking to legalize marijuana for both medical and economic reasons. (Fourteen states have already done so to date.) Spending on federal drug control is down about $3 billion from 2001, however.

An ONDCP press release characterizes the new figures as “balanced and comprehensive.”

“The new budget proposal demonstrates the Obama Administration’s commitment to a balanced and comprehensive drug strategy,” Kerlikowske added, in the advisory. “In a time of tight budgets and fiscal restraint, these new investments are targeted at reducing Americans’ drug use and the substantial costs associated with the health and social consequences of drug abuse.”

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