Despite Congress's ongoing attempts at reducing wasteful spending, the expensive and failed drug war continues.
More than a trillion dollars has been spent on the war on drugs with little to show for it except over-crowded prisons, enormous racial disparities, and rising rates of overdose fatalities.
It is past time to stop wasting taxpayer money on drug policies with a record of failure.
Now is our chance to demand that Congress stop wasting money on this catastrophe -- take action today!
For instance, federal subsidies for local law enforcement, such as the Byrne-JAG program, are fueling over-incarceration at the local level. These federal subsidies distort local law enforcement priorities and waste federal money that could be used for truly federal activities. Twenty civil rights and criminal justice reform groups released a letter in 2008 urging Congress to not renew the program without first reforming it. Four leading conservative groups have urged Congress in the past to completely eliminate the Byrne grant program, because the program "has proved to be an ineffective and inefficient use of resources." (American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform, Citizens against Government Waste and National Taxpayers Union). Eliminating the Byrne-JAG program would save billions of dollars.
Another example is the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). While ONDCP serves a useful function in terms of policy development, it manages several programs that could be eliminated or merged with other programs to save money. For instance, seven government-funded evaluations concluded that the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign is ineffective at reducing teen drug use. Two of the studies found the ads might make some teenagers more likely to start using drugs. The American Conservative Union, National Taxpayers Union, Americans for Tax Reform, Taxpayers for Commonsense and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste have all called on Congress to eliminate the wasteful Media Campaign. The Heritage Foundation advocates eliminating ONDCP outright.
Eliminating the Media Campaign, along with other ONDCP programs, such as the Counter-Drug Technology Assessment Center, the Drug Free Communities support program, and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, which the Bush Administration sought to merge with the Department of Justice's Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), would save hundreds of millions of dollars.
This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the war on drugs. Despite incarcerating tens of millions of Americans and spending more than a trillion dollars, illegal drugs remain cheap, potent, and widely available, and the harms associated with them - addiction, overdose, and the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C - continue to persist in every community. Meanwhile the war on drugs is creating problems of its own - broken families, increased poverty, racial disparities, prison overcrowding, eroded civil liberties, and wasted tax dollars. Congress has an opportunity to reduce the deficit and save taxpayer money for years to come, while empowering the states, keeping families together and saving lives. Please don't waste any more money on drug war programs with a record of failure.