The Administration budget suggests a major shift in doctrine in federal drug policy. Several major categories in federal enforcement, and enforcement grants to the States, are eliminated, while a trial program funding vouchers for treatment is scaled up, with a tripled budget. The vouchers may be used at either "faithbased" or secular programs.
Among agencies set to be wiped, the scandal pagued and ineffectual National Drug Intelligence Center in Johnstown, PA, and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, a series of Fed/State/Local task forces. (more)
My guess, Conyers gets further reforms into the House version, Biden tries to undo it in Senate Judiciary. Whither Arlen Specter?
President Bush's proposed 2006 federal budget is out and it has some interesting implications for the drug war. For starters, Bush wants to eliminate more than a billon dollars in federal law-enforcement grants to the states, including the problematic Byrne grant program. These grants subsidized the largest prison expansion in American history. Without them, it's doubtful that states could afford to continue to pursue draconian "lock `em up" approaches to drugs. Bush also wants to completely eliminate the federal Safe and Drug Free Schools Program, which among other things helps states fund DARE and other over-the-top anti-drug programs. He is also recommending level funding for the government's anti-drug media campaign, which adjusted for inflation would mean essentially a slight cut to the program. At the same time Bush is cutting these programs, he is trying to double - and in some cases triple - the amount of money going to drug treatment programs, most notably his novel Access to Recovery program which gives vouchers to people needing access to drug treatment.
At a Congressional hearing last week, Drug Czar John Walters defended the Bush budget from hostile members of Congress and said it's time to eliminate anti-drug programs that don't work and increase funding for programs that do work. Walters went on to say that the federal government should stop focusing so many resources on low-level offenders:
"It could be a more powerful tool if it's moved and integrated, remains state and local focused, and part of a consolidated effort...to break the businesses that are the drug trade. Otherwise, you are chasing primarily small people, putting them in jail, year after year, generation after generation. Break the business. Don't break generation after generation... of young men, especially poor, minority young men in our cities, and [put] them in jail."
There is, however, plenty in the Bush budget to criticize - especially Bush's proposal to give states $25 million a year to enact random student drug testing. Bush is also proposing to give more money to the DEA, which already wastes too much money arresting medical marijuana patients and their caregivers. Still, it's good to hear White House officials talk about the need to eliminate drug war programs that don't work. It's even better to hear them admit that the drug war is wasting too many lives, costing too much money, and perpetuating racial disparities. We couldn't have said it better