Victory through redefinition

I’ve never had much patience with the idea that the national drug control budget gives too much to enforcement and not enough to treatment. There ain’t no such thing as a national drug control budget: that’s not how the budget process works. And it would be more accurate to say that the national law enforcement budget (about $150 billion per year) is overweighted (about 20%) toward drugs, while the national health care effort (ten times the size, at $1.5 trillion per year) is underallocated (about 1/2 of 1%) to substance abuse treatment.

Still, lots of people are sold on the “imbalanced drug budget” idea. There’s not really a lot that the Drug Czar can do about it, given the way budget decisions actually get made in Washington.

Or so I thought. That just shows why John Walters is Autocrat of All the Drugs and I’m not. By simply not counting the costs of imprisoning drug dealers — which have risen, due to tougher sentencing laws, to the point where we spend more money each year locking up past dealers than chasing current dealers — the new National Drug Control Strategy makes the enforcement effort look smaller. Now that’s what I call an elegant solution to an intractable problem.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: