It’s time this drug ‘war’ ended

Even though the administration of President Obama has championed “change” as its hallmark, many of its domestic policy and funding programs reflect more a “continuation” of the big spending ways of his predecessor. However, in the area of drug control policy, early signs are that Obama is serious about charting a new course — and a better one.

Barely moved into his office in the nation’s capitol, Gil Kerlikowske, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, more commonly known as the office of the “drug czar,” signaled a bold change in direction and emphasis in the federal government’s long-running anti-drug program. In one of his first public statements, Kerlikowske officially jettisoned the term “War on Drugs” to describe the federal effort to combat mind-altering drugs. The short-hand nomenclature had been in common usage since 1971, when then-President Nixon first attached the term to the national anti-drug program.

Kerlikowske’s law enforcement career began in Florida in the second year of the “war” he now plans to alter and took him to police chief in Seattle in 2001, where he stayed until being sworn in as drug czar. Despite his strong law enforcement credentials, Kerlikowske will not have an easy job of shifting the direction of the massive and costly anti-drug effort directed from Washington. For four decades, the primary focus of the federal anti-drug effort has been enforcement, interdiction and incarceration as opposed to demand reduction, prevention and treatment.

The figures on the allocation of the nearly $15 billion dedicated directly to the federal anti-drug effort in the current 2009 fiscal year illustrate the magnitude of the task facing Kerlikowske. Fully two-thirds of that amount is consumed by enforcement, interdiction and international activities; only one-third goes toward treatment and prevention. Obama’s preliminary requests for the 2010 budget barely change those ratios.

Still, the signal Kerlikowske is sending in the deceptively simple vocabulary shift away from the war rhetoric is important. Although his agency has no enforcement power, it helps set the president’s “policies, priorities and objectives” in this arena. If Kerlikowske is in fact reflecting Obama’s priorities, and, more importantly, if the president is willing to back him up, then true change may indeed be in the offing for the government’s drug program, and change is long overdue.

Regardless of whether one is a “drug warrior” or a “drug legalizer,” it is difficult if not impossible to defend the 38-year war on drugs as a success. Illicit drugs are every bit as easy to score on America’s streets and in her schools now as they were more than three decades ago. Last year, just under 84 percent of 12th-graders considered that marijuana was “very easy” or “fairly easy” to obtain; virtually the same as in a 1975 survey.

America’s prisons continue to burst at the seams with drug offenders, who are serving longer and longer sentences (thanks in part to mandatory sentence terms which came into vogue in the 1980s). While the country’s population was increasing by 46 percent from 1970 to 2007, our prison population exploded by 547 percent. The lion’s share of that huge increase is the result of drug and drug-related arrests, which soared by a factor of 14 from 1968 to 2007. The direct cost to America’s taxpayers of housing this prison population is staggering, with the Bureau of Prisons’ budget mushrooming more than 740 percent since 1971, to more than $5.5 billion.

More important than the monetary cost of this multidecade effort, however, is the human cost. If Obama and Kerlikowske are indeed serious about refocusing not only rhetoric but action toward demand reduction (and focusing the enforcement effort on violent criminal activities), then the years ahead might actually witness some true successes in keeping our nation’s youth off mind-altering drugs.

73 comments Add your comment

JoshLovesPot

May 26th, 2009
6:02 pm

And Che, I never said I wanted one-sided conversations. I would love to hear both sides of the arguement on the “WAR ON DRUGS” since that is what this particular board is referring to. Not gay marriage or North Korea’s nuclear weapons. If I wanted to see debates on those things, I would go find message boards that pertain to them.

JoshLovesPot

May 26th, 2009
6:09 pm

And your arguement that “corporations don’t control the US. If that were true they would not be shipping jobs overseas leaving Americans jobless.” is a terrible arguement… If, in fact, the government or we the people controlled this country instead of big business those big corporations would not be allowed by law to ship jobs overseas. Instead, the lobbyists push the politicians to make laws so it is easier for them to ship jobs overseas. Obviously, the people with the money make the laws so they can make more money. Read up on the “Conflict Theory.” It fits more today than it did in the days of the Communist Manifesto…

Che was a homicidal maniac

May 26th, 2009
6:13 pm

JoshLovesPot, I call em like I see em, comrade. Funny how you say that I’m a republican name caller when libs are kings of childish name calling. You must be a high school drop out. Like that?

I don’t have to argue, Pot. I can state my claims with facts. Corporations don’t control anything. Just look at Gm. Do they control the country? NOOOOOPE, Obama does. I’d rather have private industry in control than a government who allowed 911 to happen. I’d rather have companies like Apple in charge than the DMV.

Also Pot, again I can post whatever I want in regards to government.

Che was a homicidal maniac

May 26th, 2009
6:16 pm

JoshLovesPot, yeah, good luck telling a private company what it can and can’t do with shipping jobs over seas. Lower taxes and you’ll bring back jobs. I’m sorry that you hate rich people but maybe you could ask for a few extra shifts at McDonalds to help pay up on your child support. Like that one Pot?
Last time I checked it was government and high taxes that drove jobs elsewhere.

JoshLovesPot

May 26th, 2009
6:21 pm

Che, I am glad you feel so safe sitting at your little desk and talking all big. I wish I could meet you. I really, really wish that. High School Dropout? No, I have a MBA from Tech in Engineering. McDonalds? No, I work for one of the top ten businesses on the Forbes 500 list. You?

JoshLovesPot

May 26th, 2009
6:24 pm

Goverment and high taxes is the excuse… Apparently the excuse that you naively believe. It’s really all about cheap labor and deep inside you know that. If you can go to India and pay someone $2.00/hr why wouldn’t you if it were legal? It has nothing to do with taxes. Wake up, Che.

JoshLovesPot

May 26th, 2009
6:27 pm

Anyway, back to the conversation on the War On Drugs? Anybody else have anything pertinent to say? About the topic?

Che was a homicidal maniac

May 26th, 2009
6:28 pm

JoshLovesPot, University of Florida, undergrad, University of Chicago, graduate school. I know Tech is a great engineering school. University of Chicago has a great business school. I work for a top 100 company in Chicago. You may have heard of it since we make the machines you fly around the world in. I talk big because I have a big……brain. And no, I don’t have to overcompensate for anything, comrade.

Che was a homicidal maniac

May 26th, 2009
6:42 pm

JoshLovesPot, lay off the weed, comrade. High taxes and unions have driven companies elsewhere. Cost of living in India, China and Mexico are nothing compared to America. Workers here have become lazy and hard work has become irrelevant to them. In high school I worked with a union for a summer in between school. They were THE LAZIEST SOB’S I’ve ever worked with. If some of them were not on a smoke break every 30 minutes the others were asleep in their trucks due to a hangover. The foreman had to call in a new unionized force to help finish up what the other union could not finish. It was amazing. The condo owners ended up losing a lot of money. Your blind faith in government will cost you your soul. The US government doesn’t give a rats ass whether jobs go or stay.

Che was a homicidal maniac

May 26th, 2009
6:45 pm

To all the Obama Hussein voters! Guess what, Obama lied! Troops will NOT come home from Iraq.

Army chief says US ready to be in Iraq 10 years

WASHINGTON – The Pentagon is prepared to leave fighting forces in Iraq for as long as a decade despite an agreement between the United States and Iraq that would bring all American troops home by 2012, the top U.S. Army officer said Tuesday.

Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff, said the world remains dangerous and unpredictable, and the Pentagon must plan for extended U.S. combat and stability operations in two wars. “Global trends are pushing in the wrong direction,” Casey said. “They fundamentally will change how the Army works.”

He spoke at an invitation-only briefing to a dozen journalists and policy analysts from Washington-based think-tanks. He said his planning envisions combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade as part of a sustained U.S. commitment to fighting extremism and terrorism in the Middle East.

Casey’s calculations about force levels are related to his attempt to ease the brutal deployment calendar that he said would “bring the Army to its knees.”

Casey would not specify how many combat units would be split between Iraq and Afghanistan. He said U.S. ground commander Gen. Ray Odierno is leading a study to determine how far U.S. forces could be cut back in Iraq and still be effective.

President Barack Obama plans to bring U.S. combat forces home from Iraq in 2010, and the United States and Iraq have agreed that all American forces would leave by 2012. Although several senior U.S. officials have suggested Iraq could request an extension, the legal agreement the two countries signed last year would have to be amended for any significant U.S. presence to remain.

As recently as February, Defense Secretary Robert Gates reiterated the U.S. commitment to the agreement worked out with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

“Under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011,” Gates said during an address at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. “We will complete this transition to Iraqi responsibility, and we will bring our troops home with the honor that they have earned.”

The United States currently has about 139,000 troops in Iraq and 52,000 in Afghanistan.

Obama campaigned on ending the Iraq war as quickly as possible and refocusing U.S. resources on what he called the more important fight in Afghanistan.

That will not mean a major influx of U.S. fighting forces on the model of the Iraq “surge,” however. Obama has agreed to send about 21,000 combat forces and trainers to Afghanistan this year. Combined with additional forces approved before former President George W. Bush left office, the United States is expected to have about 68,000 troops in Afghanistan by the end of this year. That’s about double the total at the end of 2008, but Obama’s top military and civilian advisers have indicated the number is unlikely to grow much beyond that.

Casey said several times that he wasn’t the person making policy, but the military was preparing to have a fighting force deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan for years to come. Casey said his planning envisions 10 combat brigades plus command and support forces committed to the two wars.

When asked whether the Army had any measurement for knowing how big it should be, Casey responded, “How about the reality scenario?”

This scenario, he said, must take into account that “we’re going to have 10 Army and Marine units deployed for a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Casey stressed that the United States must be ready to take on sustained fights in the Middle East while meeting other commitments.

Casey reiterated statements made by civilian and military leaders that the situation in Afghanistan would get worse before it gets better. “There’s going to be a big fight in the South,” he said.

Casey added that training of local police and military in Afghanistan was at least a couple years behind the pace in Iraq, and it would be months before the U.S. deployed enough trainers. There’s a steeper curve before training could be effective in Afghanistan, requiring three to five years before Afghanis could reach the “tipping point” of control.

He also said the U.S. had to be careful about what assets get deployed to Afghanistan. “Anything you put in there would be in there for a decade,” he said.

As Army chief of staff, Casey is primarily responsible for assembling the manpower and determining assignments. He insisted the Army’s 1.1-million size was sufficient even to handle the extended Mideast conflicts.

“We ought to build a pretty effective Army with 1.1 million strength,” Casey said. He also noted that the Army’s budget had grown to $220 billion from $68 billion before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

He said the Army is two-thirds of the way through a complete overhaul from the Cold War-era force built around tanks and artillery to today’s terrorist-driven realities. The Army has become more versatile and quicker by switching from division-led units to brigade-level command.

Casey said the Army has moved from 15-month battlefield deployments to 12 months. His goal is to move rotations by 2011 to one year in the battlefield and two years out for regular Army troops, and one year in the battlefield and three years out for reserves. He called the current one-year-in-one-year-out cycle “unsustainable.”

JoshLovesPot

May 26th, 2009
6:50 pm

Belive me, Che, I do not have blind faith in the goberment. As I always say “I love my country but hate the people who run it.”

Che was a homicidal maniac

May 26th, 2009
7:00 pm

JoshLovesPot, I don’t hate anyone.

StevenCee

May 26th, 2009
7:43 pm

Micheal, you sound very reasonable, yet you toss out complete inaccuracies & exaggerations as if they are in fact, truths…. First of all, cigarettes yes, take some time to kill, but they are probably THE most addictive drug in America (believe me, I’ve spoken with many who were addicted to various drugs, and they’ve all stated cigs being the hardest to get off, some never have yet). As for alcohol, do you have any idea how many crimes are committed daily, and lives lost, by thousands of Americans, inebriated the very same day they drank more legal alcohol than they should have?

And do you have a clue as to the numbers of Americans who die from illegal drugs yearly?
I’ll give you a few hints, first of all, not a single person dies from pot, not this year, not last year, not any year. Next, most of those who do die from ODs of other illegal drugs, do so BECAUSE the drugs are illegal, thus unregulated, thus the purity & additives are unknowns.

In spite of all that, the numbers who die from these terrible, dangerous, illegal drugs don’t come close to the number who die from legal, Rx drugs, and are a drop in the bucket, of course, to those who die from the very legal booze & cigarettes!

As for legalization, your statement that there are still bootleggers of booze around today, is ludicrous. While there probably are a handful, you cannot compare a few backwoods stills to the Capone, Nitti, & other criminal Prohibition-era gangs, who wreaked havoc on society, killing & corrupting, until America wisely said NO MORE PROHIBITION!

Michael, I would seriously suggest you go to the website I first mentioned:
http://www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com and read from those who have first-hand experience on the “front lines” of this “war”, you’ll learn some real facts, instead of the “Reefer Madness” style propaganda/misinformation you’ve picked up….

Michael H. Smith

May 26th, 2009
8:59 pm

We disagree on your inaccurate exaggerated claims Steve. Many opinions are floating around, including your source. So here’s one from me: http://www.medpagetoday.com/Psychiatry/Addictions/8096

And lets be perfectly clear about nicotine, where we do kind of agree. It is not “probably the most addictive substance”. It is in point of fact “the very most addictive of all drugs, period!”
(do some more research on this one, there is no probably)

The problem with getting the facts on your gal Mary Jane is that she is a very illusive lady, often mixed with other substances when deaths occur and Marijuana deaths are falsely attributed to accidents.

http://alcoholism.about.com/b/2003/11/02/marijuana-causes-many-deaths-reported-as-accidents.htm

Some other long term studies are yet to reach a conclusion on smoking marijuana. But for what it is worth the first link above is probably accurate, since smoke of most any type damages the lungs when it is inhaled deeply enough and long enough and as we know when smoking Marijuana it is inhaled more deeply and held in the lungs longer than when someone is smoking a tobacco cigarette. In fact I watched a documentary over the weekend about this very thing and the doctor stated that after five years these Marijuana smokers that were under observation are known to develop COPD. So when the long term studies do reach conclusion expect to find Marijuana and Tobacco to be co-equal killers.

No my statement as to bootleggers is not ludicrous; bootlegging remains alive and a lucrative trade. I made no comparisons of the amounts. That is something you chose to do Steve, for very crass obvious reasons.

If it is all the same to you I’ll do my own research but if I ever need an understudy I’ll keep you in mind.

Meanwhile I’m not buying your legalize drug propaganda and the world will be wonderful, all problems solved.

Michael H. Smith

May 26th, 2009
9:04 pm

We disagree on your inaccurate exaggerated claims Steve. Many opinions are floating around, including your source. So here’s one from me:

http://www.medpagetoday.com/Psychiatry/Addictions/8096

And let’s be perfectly clear about nicotine, where we do kind of agree. It is not “probably the most addictive substance”. It is in point of fact “the very most addictive of all drugs, period!”
(do some more research on this one, there is no probably)

The problem with getting the facts on your gal Mary Jane is that she is a very illusive lady, often mixed with other substances when deaths occur and Marijuana deaths are falsely attributed to accidents.

alcoholism.about.com/b/2003/11/02/marijuana-causes-many-deaths-reported-as-accidents.htm

Some other long term studies are yet to reach a conclusion on smoking marijuana. But for what it is worth the first link above is probably accurate, since smoke of most any type damages the lungs when it is inhaled deeply enough and long enough and as we know when smoking Marijuana it is inhaled more deeply and held in the lungs longer than when someone is smoking a tobacco cigarette. In fact I watched a documentary over the weekend about this very thing and the doctor stated that after five years these Marijuana smokers that were under observation are known to develop COPD. So when the long term studies do reach conclusion expect to find Marijuana and Tobacco to be co-equal killers.

No my statement as to bootleggers is not ludicrous; bootlegging remains in fact a very lucrative trade. I made no comparisons of the amounts. That is something you chose to do Steve.

If it is all the same to you I’ll do my own research but if I ever need an understudy I’ll keep you in mind.

Meanwhile I’m not buying your legalize drug propaganda and the world will be wonderful, all problems solved.

JoshLovesPot

May 26th, 2009
9:34 pm

Being a person whose family has deep roots in the bootlegging business, I can agree with Michael about the numbers of bootleggers still out there. Moonshine is still something you can find at every high school party north of Atlanta.

But I have to disagree with Michael and agree with Steve on the Marijuana position. Yes, it does in fact have some negative qualities, but unless you are a Puritan you do things on a daily basis that has more impact on your overall health than marijuana. That bag of chips? Bad. That can of Coke? Bad. That McDonalds cheeseburger? Bad. Everyone has a vice and everyone should be allowed to. Marijuana is ALOT less harmful that alcohol, and I will argue that and show you fact after fact until the day I die. If we are legalizing drugs because of their impact on our health, marijuana would be way above alcohol and cigs.

You may argue with this until you are blue in the face, and I invite anyone to show me PROOF that I am wrong, but marijuana has no PHYSICALLY addictive properties and it is impossible to overdose on it alone. Yes, you can get psycologically addicted to it, just like anything from gambling to sex, but you WILL NOT get physically dependant on it, unlike alcohol and nicotine.

Read up on why marijuana is illegal. It’s not a health issue. As a matter of fact, the Mormons and the timber industry had a lot to do with it, not to mention Anslingers need to make a name for himself. Marijuana was made illegal because the Mexicans who came over here to work smoked it and we were battling illegal immigration then as we are now. It was a political propaganda tool to drive the illegals out and to be able to arrest them for something. Also, the hemp industry was the biggest competition to the timber industry and guess who had the most lobbyist and the most money? The Timber Industry…

There is no good arguement as to why alcohol should be legal and marijauna shouldn’t be. People should look at the facts themselves and decide, not listen to the media or anyone else with an agenda who will lead you in a certain direction.

And again, we should be able to do whatever we want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. That is freedom. Whatever I do in the privacy of my own home is my business. Like it or not, that’s the truth.

I’m going to smoke a joint…

Dr. Flaglin

May 26th, 2009
10:01 pm

I agree with Josh and I have been a physician for over 30 years. I have also worked extensively with our government on a number of programs involving illicit drugs. Cocaine, Heroin, Ecstacy, LSD… Those are bad drugs with harmful side effects. Smoking a joint has no more of a negative side effect than eating a #5 from Macdonalds. That’s legal. Hell, most people will feed that to their children

JoshLovesPeace

May 27th, 2009
12:38 am

“Just because it’s illegal doesn’t make it wrong”
-J. Barnett

Brad

May 28th, 2009
3:23 pm

The real “power grab” in this country is by Goldman-Sachs. Paulson – Goldman-Sachs, Geithner – Goldman-Sachs. Look at the people in Obama’s admin. they are almost all from wall street. Look at where the billions in bailout money went. We are bordering on an oligarchy here!

on topic – Former congressman Tom Tancredo agrees the drug is a failure http://www.thedenverchannel.com/politics/19519306/detail.html

StevenCee

May 31st, 2009
4:49 am

“Prohibition goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.” -Abraham Lincoln

“The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the Prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in this country is closely connected with this.”  —-   Albert Einstein, 1921 

William H. in Lithonia

May 31st, 2009
12:21 pm

What we value we will fund.

50% of local taxes go to jails – basically drug war jails. Is it really America’s number one priority to stop some one from smoking a joint or snorting some cocaine? Do you want to be enslaved to taxes to fund this counter-productive culture war? Many studies show that prohibition, not drugs, is the real cause of crime associated with drugs. It’s the Prohibition Law, stupid, that makes weeds ounce for ounce the price of Gold. Terrorists earn one third of their money from underground drug sales.

Nationwide we spend as much money ($90 Billion a year) on the drug war as we did the Iraq War.

With the premise of saving children we’ve made school yards the most likely place for children to be introduced to drugs. We’ve made children dealers. We’ve stolen the parents of many children by locking them up. We’ve destroyed the future of many children.

America is the proud owner of the World’s Largest Per Capita Prison population.

Since 1980, the Reagan Republican Revolution, if we would have only spend as much energy into becoming Energy Independent as we have building prisons we’d have solar panels on everyone’s roof – and no electric bills.

The only thing prohibition of some drugs prohibits is the reasonable regulation of those drugs.

But we don’t value education or energy independence, we value prisons because that’s what we spend our money on.

Bob Marley

June 1st, 2009
9:27 am

“Legalize it…Mahn
Dont criticiz it
Legalize it
And I’ll advertise it…MAHN!!!”

Too Bad Suckers

June 24th, 2010
7:11 am

Just as the title states – Too Bad Suckers !!! You, turn every little issue against Obama and have failed to see the real cause of any issue. Look at it like this, you are a straight man drugged by a Gay guy. You just have to lay there until it’s finished.. Take it like a man sucka!! Jive Time Turkey