2011 National Drug Control Strategy

The drug war affects every sector of society, straining our economy, our healthcare and criminal justice systems, and endangering the futures of our young people. The United States cannot afford to continue paying the devastating toll of the drug war and its consequences. In 2007, the most recent year for which data are available, the economic impact of the drug war on American society totaled more than $193 billion.

A powerful and true statement. Unfortunately, that’s not quite what the introduction to the long overdue 2011 National Drug Control Strategy actually says:

Drug use affects every sector of society, straining our economy, our healthcare and criminal justice systems, and endangering the futures of our young people. The United States cannot afford to continue paying the devastating toll of illicit drug use and its consequences. In 2007, the most recent year for which data are available, the economic impact of illicit drug use on American society totaled more than $193 billion.

As we’ve discussed here before, the $193 billion calculation, even in its most favorable light, refers almost exclusively to the costs of prohibition on society.

Only in government can you point to a massive financial black hole that you’ve caused and use it for justification for a budget to do more of the same.

Reading the strategy is a pretty depressing thing — it is, of course, based on justifying prohibition in any way possible.

In the section titled The Facts About Marijuana, the report starts going into this long involved diatribe about legalization and the medical marijuana movement

Making matters worse, confusing messages being conveyed by the entertainment industry, media, proponents of “medical” marijuana, and political campaigns to legalize all marijuana use perpetuate the false notion that marijuana use is harmless and aim to establish commercial access to the drug. This significantly diminishes efforts to keep our young people drug free and hampers the struggle of those recovering from addiction. [...]

Despite successful political campaigns to legalize “medical” marijuana in 15 states and the District of Columbia, the cannabis (marijuana) plant itself is not medicine. While there may be medical value for some of the individual components of the cannabis plant, the fact remains that smoking marijuana is an inefficient and harmful method for delivering the constituent elements that have or may have medicinal value. [...]

The Administration steadfastly opposes drug legalization. Legalization runs counter to a public health approach to drug control because it would increase the availability of drugs, reduce their price, undermine prevention activities, hinder recovery support efforts, and pose a significant health and safety risk to all Americans, especially our youth.

Many “quick fixes” for America’s complex drug problem have been presented throughout our country’s history. In the past half-century, these proposals have included calls for allowing the legal sale and use of marijuana. However, the complex policy issues concerning drug use and the disease of addiction do not lend themselves to such simple solutions. [...]

Advocates of legalization say the costs of prohibition, mainly through the criminal justice system, place a great burden on taxpayers and governments. While there are certainly costs to current prohibitions, legalizing drugs would not cut costs associated with the criminal justice system (see figure). Arrests for alcohol-related crimes, such as violations of liquor laws and driving under the influence, totaled nearly 2.7 million in 200857—far more than arrests for all illegal drug use. These alcohol-related arrests are costly. Legalizing marijuana would further saddle government with the dual burden of regulating a new legal market while continuing to pay for the negative effects associated with an underground market whose providers have little economic incentive to disappear.

That last paragraph is really incredible. It takes a special level of mendacity to put such a load of crap out there.

And the administration makes it very clear that they are sabotaging the medical marijuana movement in order to help their friends in the pharmaceutical industry.

This Administration joins major medical societies in supporting increased research into marijuana’s many components, delivered in a safe (non-smoked) manner, in the hopes that they can be available for physicians to legally prescribe when proven to be safe and effective. Outside the context of Federally approved research, the use and distribution of marijuana is prohibited in the United States.

There’s a whole lot of stupidity in here, and I’m sure I’ll talk about more of it later. But I do want to also point out that the strategy is pushing the “drugged driving” meme again, even to the extent of setting a goal of “reducing the prevalence of drugged driving by 10%” by 2015. They even state the completely irresponsible “Preventing Drugged Driving Must Become a National Priority on Par with Preventing Drunk Driving.”

So, here’s a problem that they haven’t even defined yet. Nobody knows whether drugged driving is a serious problem at all, and all evidence is that “drugged driving” as defined by the administration is far less serious drunk driving. They don’t even know how many of these people are driving impaired. And yet they want to shift focus to spend as much effort on this unknown issue rather than focusing on the known one. And they want to reduce a number by 10% when they don’t know what it means.

Lots of nonsense dressed up in fancy-sounding statistics that mean nothing.

More of the same.

[Thanks, Tom]

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