A draft of the delayed National Drug Control Strategy that was due in February has surfaced, and the Drug Czar is not looking good.
These have been tough times for White House drug czar R. Gil Kerlikowske. After spending much of his first year in office crafting a new anti-drug strategy, he had hoped to unveil it two months ago with President Obama. But Kerlikowske couldn’t get on Obama’s schedule. When he pressed, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel directed him to Vice President Joe Biden, say two Kerlikowske advisers who asked not to be identified talking about an internal matter. But after agreeing to a joint announcement, Biden had to cancel at the last minute when the health-care bill landed on the president’s desk. Appearing before a House subcommittee recently, Kerlikowske got hammered for not having yet produced the drug-control strategy that his office was charged with releasing by last Feb. 1. […]
The new strategy, a copy of which NEWSWEEK obtained, sets a goal of reducing youth drug use by 15 percent in the next five years, and it asserts a commitment to “community-oriented” prevention programs and early drug-abuse screening by health-care providers. But even some administration officials say achieving these goals is unlikely given the budget’s modest prevention increases. “We are missing an opportunity,” says Kerlikowske’s chief deputy, A. Thomas McClellan, who is resigning after less than a year on the job. […]
Critics are raising questions about whether Kerlikowske’s office–with a staff of about 100 and a budget of $400 million–still serves a vital function.
Here’s the draft of the strategy. Check it out for yourself.
Let’s start with the Preface by Director Kerlikowske:
The development of this Strategy was informed by scientific breakthroughs in the prevention and treatment fields, innovations in law enforcement, and the thoughtful advice of Congress, Federal agencies, state and local partners, civic and professional organizations, and hundreds of concerned citizens around the country. In following President Obamaâ€™s charge to seek a broad range of input in the Strategy, I gained a renewed appreciation of how deeply concerned Americans are about drug use. It touches each one of us, whether we know a family member, a friend, or a colleague who suffers from addiction or is in recovery, a police officer working to protect the community, or a parent striving to keep a child drug free.
Of course, as you can immediately see, that “broad range of input” was strictly in the pro-prohibition field.
Drug overdose deaths surpass gunshot deaths in our country, and in 16 states, overdose deaths are a more common cause of accidental death than car crashes.
Of course, that’s only if you include all poisoning deaths of any kind (licit and illicit).
Drugged driving has now been identified at higher
levels than alcohol-impaired driving.
No, it hasn’t. Despite your attempts to make it an issue.
Once again, I’m feeling good about my successful challenge of the drug czar’s use of the NHTSA study to claim that he has data regarding “impaired” or “under the influence” drugged drivers.
Clearly, he intended to use this heavily in the Strategy. Even though his wording had to be carefully restricted, he still manages to use the study improperly to imply that it shows some information about drugged driving.
5. Preventing Drugged Driving Must Become a National Priority on Par with Preventing Drunk Driving
Americans know the terrible consequences of drunk driving and are becoming more aware of the dangers of distracted driving. Drugged driving poses similar threats to public safety because drugs have adverse effects on judgment, reaction time, motor skills, and memory. According to the latest National Roadside Survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 16 percent of weekend nighttime drivers tested positive for drugs. This troubling news demands a response on a level
equivalent to the decade-long, highly successful effort to prevent drunk driving. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has already taken some important steps, including publicizing the survey and adding drugged driving to its public discussions of drunk and impaired driving. However, considering the severe public safety risk posed by drugged driving, much more needs to be done to enhance safety on Americaâ€™s roads and highways.
The danger of a lunatic like Kerlikowske is not just that he invents problems to fit the solutions he wants to use, but that he actually can create harm if his solutions are followed. Take a look at the heading: “Preventing Drugged Driving Must Become a National Priority on Par with Preventing Drunk Driving.” In reality, that means that we would be giving less relative priority to drunk driving, which is proven to be very dangerous, in order to focus on an area with no statistics demonstrating a significant problem.
The word “driving” appears 41 times in the Strategy.
The biggest problem, of course, with the entire National Drug Control Strategy, is made clear when identifying what guides the strategy at its basic level:
All of these strategies will support the two policy goals specified by Congress in the authorizing legislation of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP): (1) reducing illicit drug consumption, and (2) reducing the consequences of illicit drug use in the United States. These are the Administrationâ€™s policy goals because they focus on practical results that are comprehensible and important to the American people.
No, what the American people want is a reduction of harms and reduction of cost to society from drug abuse and the drug war. You don’t address that in any meaningful way by focusing on numbers of “drug consumption.”
As long as the ONDCP operates under its current mandate, any Drug Control Strategy it puts out is going to be irrelevant.
Mark Kleiman (who generally abhors the excesses of prohibition while believing it can be saved if only we implement better probation policies and adjust marijuana laws) has a clearly different view of the Strategy and takes Isikoff to task.
While Kleiman admits that the strategy contains a lot of objectionable programs and goals, many of which are required by law or politics, he thinks that if we read between the lines, we’ll find gems of improvement. For example:
* â€œProvide information on effective prevention strategies to law enforcementâ€ seems anodyne until you think about it. Right now, law enforcement is heavily invested in a single, ineffective prevention strategy: DARE, one of the sacred cows of drug abuse control. The implication is that the Feds are going to tell law enforcement agencies with information on programs that actually work.
Really? The strategy itself can’t or won’t tell the truth about programs, studies, or policy. It’s hard to believe that they would provide effective information (which must be fact-based to be effective) to law enforcement.
Is this the strategy that I would have written? Not by a long shot. But is it the best strategy produced since the process started in 1989? Incomparably. It deserved better treatment than Newsweek chose to give it. What it shows is a White House that has gotten over the â€œdrug warâ€ and is ready to think about managing the drug problem.
I disagree. All Kerlikowske has shown is that he’s ready to talk about managing the drug problem as a means to deflecting real concerns about the drug war that the government is unwilling to face, and that he’s willing to pretend that this shift in talk (without true reform) will actually be different in some way that matters.
Jeralyn at TalkLeft points out that the Strategy clearly indicates its opposition to the legalization of marijuana.
Keeping drugs illegal reduces their availability and lessens willingness to use them. That is why this Administration firmly opposes the legalization of marijuana or any other illicit drug.
It’s a point that I missed, in part, because I’ve just gotten used to the fact that the Drug Czar is required by law to oppose legalization in any way.