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Abolish the Office of National Drug Control Policy

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy was established in the early 1980s, funded in 1986, and issued its first National Drug Control Strategy in 1987. In the middle of a massive crack-cocaine and heroin epidemic generating rising overdose deaths and dealer violence, the Strategy prioritized chasing around casual users, mostly of marijuana, on the grounds that moderate drug users set a bad "moral... example."

In the two decades during which the ONDCP and its "drug czar" have dominated drug policy, publicity, and funding priorities, America's drug catastrophe has escalated astronomically. In 1980, the Centers for Disease Control reported around 8,000 Americans died from illegal drugs; in 2006, more than 35,000, and drug-related hospitalizations soared to over 800,000. In 1980, the FBI reported 400 homicides blamed on illicit-drug dealing and abuse; in 2007, more than 1,000. In short, the ONDCP's "War on Drugs"--involving 30 million arrests, 5 million imprisonments, and well over a billion dollars in expenditures over the last two decades--has not only failed, it is a calamity of monumental, tragic proportions.

Since ONDCP not only has failed to prevent drug abuse and violence but must be suspected of advancing policies that actually increase these scourges, what does it do? The ONDCP functions primarily as a federal impresario charged with fashioning and selling a politically pleasing image of "the drug problem" that suits the needs of harsh official rhetoric and special-interest care and feeding. As drug abuse has exploded over the past 25 years, the ONDCP has steadfastly dodged every crucial measure of its failings. In fact, its officials consistently refuse to debate policy, hold one-sided forums at which only its advocates are allow to speak, blindly oppose even the most proven strategies such as addict needle exhanges, push destructive international eradication and interdiction edicts, and work tirelessly to suppress alternative drug policy initiatives and views.

Instead of confronting the deadly drug abuse crises its policies have helped foster, the ONDCP has fixated on a thoroughly useless and easily biased index: how many Americans (particularly teenagers) report on paper-and-pencil surveys that they used a particular illegal drug (mainly marijuana), whose levels and trends bear no relationship to crime, drug deaths, violence, or any other measure of public well being. Replacing the ONDCP and its politically-warped drug czar with a scientific panel charged with objectively assessing America's very real drug abuse crisis is one of the most crucial steps President-elect Obama can take to scrutinize the federal budget and reform the failed "old ways of Washington."

Keywords: Mike Males, substance use

Posted in Blog, Drug Policy

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