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White House Budget Would Fund Drug Punishment Over Treatment

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WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration budget released Wednesday emphasizes drug abuse punishment and interdiction over treatment and prevention, despite recent rhetoric from the Office of National Drug Control Policy on a "21st century" approach.

The White House budget proposal for fiscal 2014 devotes 58 percent of drug-control spending to punishment and interdiction, compared with 42 percent to treatment and prevention. The drug control spending ratio in this year's budget is even more lopsided, 62 percent to 38 percent.

"The administration deserves some credit for moving this ratio slightly in the right direction over the years, but a drug control budget that increases funding for the DEA and the Bureau of Prisons is simply not the kind of strategy we need in the 21st century," said Marijuana Majority spokesman Tom Angell. "At a time when a majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana, and states are moving to end prohibition, this president should be spending less of our money paying narcs to send people to prison, not more. If, as administration officials say, 'We can't arrest our way out of the drug problem,' then why are they continuing to devote so many resources to arresting people for drug problems?"

The White House says on its website that it wants more spending for treatment and prevention -– $10.7 billion -– than for federally-funded domestic drug law enforcement and incarceration -– $9.6 billion. But this figure leaves out funding for international and interdiction efforts, buried further down in the report.

The White House proposes to spend $3.7 billion on interdiction -- intercepting and disrupting shipments of illegal drugs and their precursors -- as well as $1.4 billion for drug‐control outside the U.S.

Reformers praised the White House for seeking to cut to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, which critics have argued gives incentives to local law enforcement officials to make more drug arrests. The White House requested $193 million for the program, down from $240 million a year earlier.

"Still," Angell said, "$193 million for the program is $193 million more than should be used to arrest people for drugs in the 21st century."

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