National Drug Control Strategy – nothing to see here

A draft of the delayed National Drug Control Strategy that was due in February has surfaced, and the Drug Czar is not looking good.

As Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff reports:

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 Obama’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 America’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 Administration’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.

[Thanks, Tom]


bullet image 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:

* “Provide information on effective prevention strategies to law enforcement” 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 “drug war” 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.

bullet image 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.

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29 Responses to National Drug Control Strategy – nothing to see here

  1. denmark says:

    KerliBoys Preface is a boo-hoo statement that is most likely only evident to us, we, those, who want to see the war on drugs ended.

  2. paul says:

    Oh, now show some sympathy for the poor man.

    It’s a dirty job but someone’s gotta do it, and to his credit he doesn’t seem to be doing it with any great vigor or enthusiasm. By now, he’s probably regretting taking this thankless job, he is mandated to tell official lies every day, and he’s ignored by the president and most of the media. It can’t be fun.

    Really, he should have thought twice before accepting the job. I’m sure going to Washington must have seemed exciting at first, but after a successful career as a chief of police he certainly didn’t need the money. Retirement seems a hell of a lot more appealing to me than laboring in the Washington snake pit.

    Anyway, so there he is, making speeches nobody listens to, and overseeing strategies nobody cares about, least of all his boss. All while being forced to lie, lie, lie.

    Would you want to trade places with this man?

  3. Cliff says:

    IIRC there was a plan for illegal drug use to be eliminated by the year 2000, now 10 years later they are settling for a mere 15% reduction in illegal drug use. Wow, just wow.

  4. Chris says:

    How is it that such obvious lies and misinformation can be published? I was reading the book marijuana is safer after downloading it on 4/20 last night, and they straight up lied to the public by using emotion instead of science and tons of logical fallacies. This is no different. I really wish it was enough to just point out what is wrong with this strategy and have it denounced.

  5. ezrydn says:

    In Gil’s closing, he makes a pledge he can’t keep.

  6. kaptinemo says:

    I have to laugh. So, Joe Biden, the ONDCP’s ‘pappy’, didn’t have the time for his ‘kid’? Gil got fobbed off like any drug law reformer can expect to be? (Raucous laughter)

    Like with any human organization, there’s hierarchies. Gil’s just been shown where he stands in that hierarchy, and it’s nowhere near where the big dogs are lifting their legs. On the contrary, he got a little wet, I’d say.

  7. kaptinemo says:

    Last year, Lee over at HorsesAss had the definitive word on Joe Biden, Drug Warrior Extraordinaire. It’s worth another look. How the arch-DrugWarrior Biden is going to support admitted cannabis-smoking and coke-snorting Obama in ‘anti-drug’ operations is proving to be comical at best and farcical at its’ worst.

    The hypocrisy of the DrugWar is finally coming home to roost in a very noticeable way. And in a time of universal fiscal suffering, that’s even more noticeable.

  8. claygooding says:

    There is more danger from people texting and using cell phones than drugged driving. If they really wanted to make
    the roads safer,take texting off the cell phone.
    Our efforts are seeing some results though.
    The DEA blog is full of agents talking about how they hope legalization does not occur until they retire,,,,,we have them worried.

  9. kaptinemo says:

    OT: the ‘progressives’ are waking up…

    I’ve been poking the so-called ‘progressives’ in the eye on their Websites, chiding them for their seeming cowardice in dealing with the illegal drugs issue, particularly how it relates to race issues, for years. In response, they’ve been uniformly, sheepishly silent, or pathetically defensive (without adequately explaining their lack of enthusiasm in changing the laws).

    But now, it looks like they’ve gotten the message. If only because their favorite bête noire Glenn Beck has done something they really don’t like.

    It’s about time…

  10. Just me says:

    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.

    So what does that mean? Sometime down the road they are going to start doing road side piss tests, like breathalizer for alcohol? I think freaking not. Its enough they demand work place testing, and thats down right mean to start with. This would mean millions with out the ability to drive to work….just because they smoked a joint a week ago….nice.

  11. Just me says:

    …Come to think of it..if they started road side piss tests, not only would millions be without a drivers licesne , but they would ALL be with out a job. You know employers would find out if you failed a road side UA. Imagine the up roar this would cause.

  12. Just me says:

    …Come to think of it, these same people would loss thier jobs too. Imagine the uproar following that.

  13. I was on a panel with Mark Kleiman last year at the Netroots Nation convention in Pittsburgh. He supports a kind of “soft prohibition,” a state where prohibition exists but somehow in a less harmful form.

    What he fails to understand is that there will always be folks in my profession (ie. law enforcement) who will enforce prohibition to the maximum, rather than the minimum. This occurs for all kinds of reasons (poor understanding of drug policy, institutional pressures, desire to increase arrest statistics, personal career goals, etc). There is a role for enforcement, but my preference would be for drug enforcement to occur in a regulatory context (enforcing age minimums in cannabis cafes, for example).

    Mark Kleiman’s writing is always interesting. It’s sometimes worthwhile to get a different perspective, even if you don’t agree with it.

  14. kaptinemo says:

    JustMe and friends, consider this: some the greatest strides Labor ever made came during the worst economic times this country ever experienced (until now, that is).

    We may be heading for exactly that sort of thing again, as Labor has been pushed to the wall by Capital, as it was back in the 1930’s, and a resurgence of Labor fighting back will mean the dismantling of many of the most odious aspects of the DrugWar, such as drug testing. Because there’s more of us than there are of the fat-cats.

    It may take a while, but it will have to come, as people are getting desperate…and angry. And, historically, angry people are ones that become activists…and get things done.

  15. kaptinemo says:

    Constable Bratzer, Professor Kleiman reminds me of the old Soviets, whose basic contention was that if you worked hard enough, you’d achieve Utopia.

    The problem is, if you start with a lump of mud, no amount of work in the world will turn it into a cherry pie.

    Drug prohibition is a ‘lump of mud’. It always was. And no amount of policy tweaking will ever change its’ inherent unworkability into a smoothly-running machine.

    And as you pointed out, if drug prohibition is prosecuted by battering ram, police truncheon and sidearm, then there’s absolutely nothing ‘soft’ about it. But since the ivory tower denizens who favor the policy rarely get the resulting blood on their tweed jackets, they don’t have the perspective you and your comrades do. And since it’s the ivory tower types who create policy, the horror continues…until the system itself breaks down.

  16. Cannabis says:

    It’s always fun to look at a document’s properties to see what one can learn:

    Title: Microsoft Word – National Drug Strategy.doc
    Author: DBrillman
    PDF producer: Mac OS X 10.5.8 Quartz PDFContext
    PDF Version: 1.5 (Acrobat 6.x)

    The copy of Word used to print the Strategy is registered to DBrillman. The document was made on a Mac and the PDF was made using the capability built into OS X to print to PDF.

    The unanswered questions are why was it leaked, who leaked it and why? Never mind that it’s three months late.

  17. BluOx says:

    “Soft prohibition” reminds me of “clean coal” or “safe nuclear”. No such animals exist. Desperate bureacrats is their name…and they know it.It’s all been a pack of lies from the beginning…and now almost everyone knows it.
    Kleiman’s attempt at common ground no longer interests me. Just throw the ONDCP drugwarbaby out, bathwater and all.

  18. jesus!

    i added pot to my page of drug use vs traffic accidents:

    first, efforts to “reduce drug use” are laughably insane — as can be seen by the use curves on the chart; second, and perhaps more importantly, drugged driving simply does not appear to be as problematic as they would like us to believe, as the number of traffic accidents has been stable for quite some time, despite the consistent increases in drug use

    what the drug czar is up to is something quite obvious: what they really want to do is increase drug testing across the board in our society, and they are attempting to use “drugged driving” as the wedge to get their foot in that door.

    slam the door! drugged driving is simply the red herring of the moment — and yet another of the recurring memes of the merry-go-round ride.

  19. kaptinemo says:

    “what the drug czar is up to is something quite obvious: what they really want to do is increase drug testing across the board in our society, and they are attempting to use “drugged driving” as the wedge to get their foot in that door”

    Yepper, looks like the desperate grasping and clawing for a fiscal life-preserver for ‘anti-drug’ bureaucracies and their astroturf allies, the corps and ‘citizen’s groups’ that are addicted to DrugWar money. Any way they can, they’ll misrepresent the facts to maintain a hold on dwindling taxpayer resources in order to finance themselves.

    They just don’t want to admit the party’s over…

  20. Shap says:

    Kleiman does not truly understand the issue if he believes in a “soft prohibition.” I assume he’s never seen a single episode of The Wire as it would enlighten him on police departments’ obsession with stats stats stats aka arrest arrest arrest. “Soft prohibition” sounds like it came out of the mouth of an academic who has absolutely no understanding of the practical applications of the high theory he or she endorses.

  21. denmark says:

    In the spirit of Science Fiction I’ve been wondering what would Merlin do to these fools?
    Surely he’d turn them into rodents, rats preferably. Then again, if I were Merlin, they’d be sent to a land far, far away, never to be heard from again.

  22. Cliff says:

    Almost every legal painkiller, antihistamine, sleep aid, anti-depressant, or cough medicine have warnings about operating heavy machinery or driving while using these various products, or at the very least there are as many anecdotal tales of drugged driving on legal substances that end in tragedy. If they test for cannabis they damn well better test for everything that can alter moods. Oh they also better ask if the individual got enough sleep the night before because sleep deprivation is a major cause of late night driving accidents.

    How many cannabis consumers caused the 2 latest disasters? The economic meltdown and the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster were caused by a disease called G.A.S.


    To borrow a phrase, “You can’t fix stupid” (or test for it with someone’s bodily fluids)

  23. claygooding says:

    Not to mention that an exDEA administrator,now works for Motorola,where a subsidiary developed a new hi-tech recent use testing device that works only on marijuana.
    Now if Kerli can song and dance his way into talking congress into buying those testers,it will fulfill a need for a real time test for marijuana and kicks some cash back into one of the good ol boys/girls bank account.
    The device is portable,and if they could get them in quantity sufficient to proliferate state and local law enforcement,the money generated will be staggering.

    Youn can bet that the urine testing industry is going to cry over that!

  24. Cannabis says:

    @ claygooding, do you have a link or more info on the Motorola cannabis use testing device? I can’t find anything on it.

  25. Cannabis says:


  26. Cannabis says:

    Cool. Here’s the article from the Technology Review: Device Offers a Roadside Dope Test.

  27. titanbite says:

    So,where do prescription drugs come into the equation?

    Even Viagra causes vision impairment,of course,these types of “Drugs” will not be exempted from the list of known mind-altering substances that could cause someone to be the catalyst for an accident,right?

    This isn’t to curb “Drugged driving”,it’s a cash cow,can you imagine the number of people who will become criminals overnight if authorities start pulling people over for “Drugged driving”,there isn’t many prescriptions that don’t carry warnings against operating machinery or driving,this is only going to lead to huge revenue generation by the police and the courts,you watch!

    Get ready to have laws saying it’s fine to have your car confiscated,now THERE’S a money maker!

    Who says the Federal Government has a deficit?!

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