Tony Newman at (646)335-5384 or Bill Piper at (202)669-6430
Drug Czar John Walters will testify today at 2pm before the House Domestic Policy Subcommittee. He is expected to defend the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy’s 2008 Drug Strategy, which continues to fund failed supply-side strategies at the expense of more effective prevention and treatment. Below is a statement from Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance.
Every year the drug czar tries to put a good spin on the failure of the drug war, and this year is no exception. Americans should ask themselves, ‘Are drugs as available as ever?’ Answer: Yes. ‘Do our communities continue to be devastated by astronomical incarceration rates and death and disease related to drug abuse and drug prohibition?’ Again, yes.
Despite spending hundreds of billions of dollars and incarcerating millions of Americans, experts acknowledge that illicit drugs remain cheap, potent and widely available in every community. Meanwhile, the harms associated with drug abuse–addiction, overdose and the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis–continue to mount. Add to this record of failure the collateral damage of drug prohibition and the drug war–broken families, racial inequity, wasted tax dollars, and the erosion of civil liberties. The evidence is clear and it is foolish and irresponsible to claim success.
What matters most is not whether drug use rates go up or down but whether we see any improvements in the death, disease, crime and suffering that are associated with both illegal drugs and drug prohibition. The current approach, with its “drug-free America” rhetoric, and over reliance on punitive, criminal justice policies costs taxpayers billions more each year, yet delivers less and less. It’s time for a new bottom line in drug policy, one that focuses on reducing the harms associated with both drug misuse and the collateral damage from the drug war.