ACLU Says Bush Anti-Drug Goals Unattainable Unless Funding Meets Rhetoric

February 12, 2002 12:00 am

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Statement of Rachel King,
Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington National Office


WASHINGTON — While the American Civil Liberties Union applauds the President’s newly announced goal of reducing drug use in America by 25 percent over the next five years, such a goal seems unrealistic unless the White House brings its funding priorities more in-line with its rhetoric.

In his remarks today, President Bush expressed his belief that the three priorities in the fight against drugs – interdicting supply, reducing demand and increasing access to treatment – are “essential and inseparable.” However, he also announced that the government would allocate $2.3 billion to interdiction efforts this year alone, compared with $1.6 billion for treatment over the next five years – a funding disparity of more than seven-to-one. Unless the President commits to funding treatment and controlling demand at the same level as supply reduction, the Administration will inevitably fail in its goal of cutting drug use by a full quarter by 2007.

For too long the government has focused its efforts on policing, prison and harmful crop eradication policies abroad without addressing the core reasons for drug use and addiction. Today, the President’s remarks suggest something of a divergence from past policy directions. We at the ACLU urge the Administration to follow through on this rhetoric.

We also urge the Administration to ensure that any money allocated for treatment and prevention be funneled to programs and organizations with proven track records, and that funds not be doled out based on political concerns.

The two-decade old so-called War on Drugs – centered almost exclusively around cops and prison bars – has brought few victories and many defeats. More than 2 million men and women – many innocent, or guilty of the most minor drug offenses – crowd our prison cells. Racial and ethnic disparity pervades every level of our criminal justice system. Addicts who desperately need help can’t get it for lack of public funding.

Reasonable, rational and appropriate changes are required in our efforts to solve the drug problem in America. The President has taken the first step with his remarks today. Now, he needs to follow through and ensure that the problems of supply, demand and treatment receive equal levels of respect in the federal budget.

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