April 13, 2010
5:29 PM

CONTACT: Drug Policy Alliance

Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or
Bill Piper 202-669-6430

Wednesday: Congressional Hearing Looks at Obama Administration’s Drug War Policies

Despite Significant Reforms, Administration’s 2011 Budget Criticized for Mirroring Bush’s Emphasis on Arrests and Incarceration over Treatment

Wednesday: Congressional Hearing Looks at Obama Administration’s Drug War Policies Both Nation’s Drug Czar, Gil Kerkikowske, and Nation’s Leading Critic of Drug War, Ethan Nadelmann, to Testify

WASHINGTON - April 13 - The U.S. House Domestic Policy Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), will hold a hearing Wednesday morning on the White House's drug war budget and forthcoming 2010 National Drug Control Strategy. The Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (also known as the drug czar), Gil Kerlikowske, and the executive director of the anti-drug-war Drug Policy Alliance, Ethan Nadelmann, will both be testifying.

Mr. Nadelmann testimony will focus on:

  • The drug war's flawed performance measures;
  • The lop-sided ratio between supply and demand spending in the national drug budget;
  • The lack of innovation in the drug czar's proposed strategies;
  • The Administration's failure to adequately evaluate drug policies.

The hearing comes in the wake of significant drug policy reforms under the Obama Administration, including a directive urging federal law enforcement agencies to stop arresting medical marijuana patients and caregivers in compliance with their state's medical marijuana law, and the repeal of the two decade old federal syringe funding ban, which prohibited states from funding syringe exchange programs with federal money to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C. Additionally, a few weeks ago a White House backed bi-partisan bill reforming the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity passed the U.S. Senate unanimously.

The Administration's drug war budget, however, is still focused overwhelmingly on failed supply side policies and ignores important harm reduction measures. Director Kerlikowske told the Wall Street Journal last year that he doesn't like to use the term "war on drugs" because "[w]e're not at war with people in this country." Yet 64% of their budget - virtually the same as under the Bush Administration - focuses on largely futile interdiction efforts as well as arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating extraordinary numbers of people. Only 36% is earmarked for demand reduction. The budget also ignores life-saving harm reduction measures such as naloxone-distribution and heroin assisted treatment, widely viewed around the world as a necessary part of any balanced, evidenced based drug strategy.

"Congress and the Obama administration have broken with the costly and failed drug war strategies of the past in some important ways," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "But the continuing emphasis on interdiction and law enforcement in the federal drug war budget suggest that ONDCP is far more wedded to the failures of the past than to any new vision for the future. I urge this committee to hold ONDCP and federal drug policy accountable to new criteria that focus on reductions in the death, disease, crime and suffering associated with both drugs and drug prohibition." 

What: Congressional hearing titled, "ONDCP's Fiscal Year 2011 National Drug Control Budget: Are We Still Funding a War on Drugs?"

When: 10:00AM, Wednesday, April 14th.

Where: 2154 Rayburn HOB


DPA Network is the nation's leading organization working to end the war on drugs. We envision new drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights and a just society in which the fears, prejudices and punitive prohibitions of today are no more.

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