Today on the podcast, Stephen Kent and Lucy Steigerwald discuss the Office of Drug Control Policy and 2018 budget from the White House that shows a 95% cut to their budget. Is this cause for excitement if you want to see the drug war wound down? Lucy is reluctant to celebrate.
On Friday, news broke that Donald Trump’s 2018 budget would reportedly cut the budget of the Office of National Drug Control Policy by almost 95 percent. According to CNN, who got the draft themselves, this means the ONDCP would fall “from a $380 million budget to $24 million.”
Libertarians and other anti-prohibitionists should be careful not to celebrate too early. The drug war, like life, tends to find a way. The draft memo justifies these cuts mostly in terms of redundancy. And we will still have a DEA, Chris Christie’s shiny new anti-opioid task force, and myriad federal, state, and local drug laws. Drug warriors may be having a bad day, but they shouldn’t panic too much.
President Trump’s “very friendly conversation” with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte included an invitation for a White House visit, though the latter says he may be too busy to accept. The invitation reportedly shocked Trump’s own top officials, who weren’t consulted before it was extended, and was met with horror by human rights groups.
According to the White House readout, the two leaders “discussed the fact that the Philippines is fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs,” and Duterte has previously said that Trump has commended him for how he’s dealt with drug dealers.
But Duterte’s drug war is not just a war with cartels, or SWATs teams kicking in doors, as might might be familiar to people in North America but extrajudicial death squads responding to the president’s declaration of open season. And it’s not just talk. Some 8,000 people have been killed already—not counting many more “suicides” by those in police custody—and Duterte was elected only last year.
Atlanta’s city council is contemplating making a smart move by decriminalizing marijuana possession (up to an ounce) within city limits. The current ludicrous threat of jail time would be replaced with a paltry $75 fine.
Many say Atlanta has a major policing problem along racial lines—more black residents are getting arrested for marijuana possession than their white counterparts, to an eery degree. Proponents of this new policy say decriminalization could partially ease those tensions.
Currently, punishments vary for first-time possession of up to an ounce. On the second offense, however, you can pay up to $1000 in fines and spend up to one year in jail. Possessing more than an ounce can result in one to ten years behind bars.
A $75 fine would be a welcome change and would show that Atlanta is yet another in a long list of cities attempting to restore sanity to drug sentencing.
Last month, President Donald Trump appointed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as the head of a task force aimed at curbing opioid use and abuse. On April 11, it was announced that Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Marino would likely step down from his current position to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) as the “drug czar.” However, increased drug control is unlikely to prevent drug-related deaths. Before instituting harsher drug policies, Christie and Marino must acknowledge that drug regulation has already made the situation deadlier.
Throughout his political career, Christie vowed to further regulate various drugs ranging from marijuana to heroin. Despite his “get tough” attitude on narcotics, his state has seen opioid deaths climb by 214 percent since 2010. Yet Christie continues to make battling overdoses his top, and seemingly only, priority in his final year in office. He recently signed a bill into law that bars doctors from issuing a script of longer than five days for first-time painkiller prescriptions. It also requires that any prescription of a pain killer for acute pain is the “lowest effective dose.”
Similarly, in his time in Congress, Marino has focused a lot on drug issues. He introduced drug regulation bills in the house, including the Transnational Drug Trafficking Act which aims to stop drug trafficking across borders, and a bill that increases collaboration between the Drug Enforcement Agency and prescription pill companies.