According to a report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) this week, the government has made no progress towards achieving most of the goals articulated in its 2010 National Drug Control Strategy. For example, no progress has been made on reducing drug use among 12 to 17-year-olds by 15%. Moreover, despite the plan for drug control reform released by Gil Kerlikowske, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the White House does not seem like it will make progress any time soon.
The GAO report shows that the approach the administration has taken towards drug control is extremely fragmented across 15 different federal agencies. Of the 79 anti-drug programs surveyed, 59 overlapped. Moreover, despite a decrease in the use of many “harder” drugs has been offset by the increase in use of marijuana among 12 to 17-year-olds, an issue the White House’s new report completely ignores.
Despite hailing his plan as a “Drug Policy for the 21st Century,” Kerlikowske’s reforms are incomplete, as it completely neglects the issues surrounding marijuana use. The administration has yet to take a stance on medicinal and recreational use of marijuana, arguably its most complex drug issue to tackle within the problem. The report doesn’t even mention marijuana once, despite the fact that the number of states that have legalized marijuana is approaching 40%. Additionally, while the approach the White House has taken claims to be “science-based,” the amount of bureaucratic red tape scientists must go through to perform research on the medicinal qualities of marijuana prevents any effective research from being performed, an issue the report also failed to address.
Moreover, the National Drug Control Budget for 2014 released by the White House seems to value drug punishment over treatment for addiction, as 58% of the resources allocated for its drug policies are used for punishment and interdiction, while 42% is allocated for treatment and prevention. While this is a slight improvement from the ratio presented in the 2013 budget (62% to 38%), it’s nowhere near enough for the nation’s drug control policy to be headed towards substantial improvement.
The White House’s website asserts that it wants to spend more money on treatment ($10.7 billion) than on incarceration and enforcement ($9.6 billion), but these figures leave out international and interdiction efforts, which are hidden further down in the budget report.
Needless to say, the government has a lot more questions to answer regarding its drug policy if it believes that it is made for the “21st century.” The policies in place have made no progress, even if they’ve detracted from the “war on drugs” rhetoric, and the policies that are to come don’t seem like they will make any more substantial improvements.