The federal government’s anti-drug efforts are inefficient and ineffective, according to a just released report issued by the Congressional watchdog agency, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO).
As if we didn’t know.
The GAO report assessed whether the Obama administration’s anti-drug strategies, as articulated by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (the ONDCP aka the Drug Czar’s office) in its 2010 National Drug Control Strategy report, have yet to achieve its stated goals.
The answer? They haven’t.
States the GAO:
“The public health, social, and economic consequences of illicit drug use, coupled with the constrained fiscal environment of recent years, highlight the need to ensure that federal programs efficiently and effectively use their resources to address this problem. ONDCP has developed a 5-year Strategy to reduce illicit drug use and its consequences, but our analysis shows lack of progress toward achieving four of the Strategy’s five goals for which primary data are available.”
In particular, the GAO criticized the administration for failing to adequately address rising levels of youth marijuana consumption. The GAO also rebuffed the ONDCP’s allegation that increased rates adolescent marijuana use are a result of the passage of statewide laws decriminalizing the plant or allowing for its therapeutic use.
“Other factors, including state laws and changing attitudes and social norms regarding drugs, may also affect drug use. We examined studies on three of these other factors, which we refer to as societal factors, which may affect youth marijuana use. … The studies that assessed the effect of medical marijuana laws that met our review criteria found mixed results on effects of the laws on youth marijuana use. … [S]tudies that assessed the effect of marijuana decriminalization that met our review criteria found little to no effect of the laws on youth marijuana use.”
You can read the full GAO report here.
The Obama Administration has released its National Drug Control Budget for the FY 2014 and despite their claims that “the war on drugs is over” and that they have “bigger fish to fry” the Office National Drug Control Policy is still prioritizing failed drug war tactics over prevention and treatment.
Prevention, in the form of education and outreach efforts, receives a paltry $1.4 billion dollars. While this is a 5% increase over the previous year’s budget, it is still a minuscule sum when you consider we are spending nine times more on arresting people than we are to educate them on risks of drug use and stop them from ending up in the criminal justice system in the first place. The budget calls for an additional 9.3 billion to be spent on treatment programs for those considered to have drug abuse issues (though $80 million of this funding goes to the drug court program, infamous for giving defendants the “choice” of serving time in rehab or spending time in a jail cell).
For all their rhetoric, this recent budget shows that little has changed in the federal government’s priorities when it comes to the War on Drugs. Funding is still disproportionately spent arresting people or diverting them into treatment programs after the fact, while only a small fraction (13%) of the overall drug budget is spent trying to fix the problem before it starts.
It is time for the Obama Administration’s policy to match its language on the issue of drug law reform. President Obama once promised that he would allow science and factual evidence to guide his administration on issues of public policy, but when it comes to marijuana laws, we are still waiting for him to deliver.
You can view the full text of the budget here.
For the first time since they began polling the question four decades ago, Pew Research Polling has released new survey data that reveals 52% of Americans want marijuana to be legalized. Only 45% were opposed.
This support is spread across demographics. The Baby Boomers (50%), Generation X (54%), and Millenials (65%) all have majority support for legalization. The only age demographic that remains opposed is the Silent Generation, those born before 1942, though support in this age group has also significantly increased. 32% of this age group now support legalization, up from 17% in 2002.
According to this polling data, most Americans have also tried marijuana personally. 48% of respondents answered affirmatively when asked if they consume marijuana, up from 38% about a decade ago.
Not only are Americans becoming more supportive of legalization, but there has been a dramatic change in how Americans view marijuana use. In 2006, Pew Research found that 50% of Americans believed smoking marijuana was “morally wrong” and only 35% did not think it was a moral issue. Today these numbers have completely flipped, 50% of Americans responded in this latest survey that using marijuana is not a moral issue and only 32% stated it was morally wrong.
60% of Americans across all political orientations also believe the federal government should not enforce federal marijuana laws in states that legalize it. 57% of Republicans, 59% of Democrats, and 64% of Independents believe the federal government should leave states like Washington and Colorado alone.
You can view the full results of this survey here.
Legislation has been introduced in Oregon by the House Committee on Revenue that would legalize and regulate the adult use of marijuana.
House Bill 3371 would establish a regulatory system, similar to the one in place in the state for alcohol, for the cultivation, production, and sale of cannabis to adults over 21. Adults would be allowed to possess up to 24 ounces of usable marijuana and grow up to six plants in their homes, in addition to purchasing it from regulated retail outlets. You can read the full text of the legislation here.
If you needed any further proof that elections have consequences, we now have a total of seven legalization bills pending in state legislatures, whereas we rarely had even one in previous years. The voters in Colorado and Washington set the ball of legalization rolling down hill and it seems unlikely to slow down anytime soon.
If you live in Oregon, please click here to quickly and easily contact your elected officials in support of this legislation. If you don’t live in Oregon, click here and see if there is any pending marijuana law reform legislation in your state.
In November 2012, two states legalized marijuana. Help us win the rest. Consider making a donation to support NORML’s advocacy work today.
Today, Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach will formally introduce a bill to tax and regulate marijuana in Pennsylvania.
“This past November, the people of Washington State and Colorado voted to fully legalize marijuana,” said Leach. “It is time for Pennsylvania to be a leader in jettisoning this modern-day prohibition, and ending a policy that has been destructive, costly and anti-scientific.”
“NORML applauds Senator Leach for taking this important step forward to end the failed policy of marijuana prohibition in his state. Pennsylvania has long been considered a bellwether state that sets the precedent for politics across the country, as such it is both exciting and encouraging to see the Keystone State take up this crucial dialogue,” said Erik Altieri, Communications Director for NORML, “Marijuana prohibition costs the state of Pennsylvania over 300 million dollars a year in enforcement costs and tens of millions a year in lost potential tax revenue, while doing little to keep the substance out of the hands of children or lower use rates. It is time for a new policy that works for the state and its people. We encourage all of Senator Leach’s colleagues in Harrisburg to join him in this call for rational marijuana laws.”
Speaking at Monday’s press conference will be Neill Franklin, Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and Dr. David Nathan, a clinical associate professor from Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
The press conference will be aired live online here at 2pm EST on February 11th.
If you live in Pennsylvania, you can easily contact your state representatives and tell them to support this legislation by visiting NORML’s Take Action Center here.
Senator Daylin Leach will be the keynote speaker at the NORML Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference, you can purchase your tickets to that event by clicking here.