RAND study on drugs and Colombia: the failure of the drug war
The actual 1994 study: "Controlling Cocaine: Supply Versus Demand Programs"
White House balks at study urging more drug treatment June 14, 1994
Narcotics Bill Reopens Drug War Debate Colombia Measure Spurs New Look At Us Policy April 1, 2000
"A Closer Look" September 22, 1999
Why drugs keep flowing: too little emphasis on treating heavy users July 20, 1994
Best Weapon In Drug War Is Treatment June 14, 1994
U.S. Should Boost Therapy Of Coke Addicts, Study Urges June 14, 1994
Drug Warriors See Long Battle, Grim Prospects January 22, 1990
Dissenter in the Drug War November 4, 1989
Study: U.S. losing war on drugs April 1, 2000
White House balks at study urging more drug treatment
June 14, 1994, Tuesday
The Clinton administration quickly rejected the conclusion of a major cocaine policy study that it ordered and funded.
The Rand Drug Policy Research Center study concludes $ 3 billion should be switched from federal and local law enforcement to treatment. The report says treatment is the cheapest way to cut drug use.
The change also would lower violent crime related to the drug trade, said center co-director Jonathan Caulkins.
But the drug czar's office swiftly rejected slashing law enforcement spending.
"We're not going to rob Peter to pay Paul," says John Carnevale, director of planning and budget at the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Clinton wants a $ 355 million rise - about 14% - in treatment spending next year; a 28% increase in prevention spending and 21% more in international supply reduction.
Caulkins said study sponsors - the drug czar's office and the Army - tried to get Rand to soften its conclusion that law enforcement money should be cut. "We by and large ignored them," Caulkins said.
Cocaine consumption has remained about 290 metric tons a year since 1985, despite major law enforcement efforts, says the $ 340,000 study by Rand, a non-profit research institute.
"This is a very significant study," said Arnold Trebach, president of the Drug Policy Foundation, which opposes the drug war. "It's the first time the cost effectiveness of treatment vs. enforcement has been measured in a scientific way."
But Eric Voth, chairman of the International Drug Strategy Institute, a pro-drug-war group, was lukewarm to Rand's finding: "I absolutely support increased treatment, but you have to be very careful how and if you cut enforcement spending."
Drug treatment cheaper: study
Treatment is far more cost effective than law enforcement in trying to reduce illegal cocaine use, a study says. How much would have to be spent annually on various strategies to reduce cocaine use by 1% over 15 years:
Foreign production control $ 783
Border interdiction $ 366
U.S. law enforcement $ 246
Treatment $ 34
'92 spending on controlling cocaine
U.S. law enforcement 73%
Border interdiction 13%
Foreign production control 7%
Narcotics Bill Reopens Drug War Debate Colombia Measure Spurs New Look At Us Policy
The Boston Globe
April 1, 2000, Saturday
By John Donnelly
WASHINGTON - An odd thing happened to the Clinton administration's plan to fight drugs in Colombia on its way to passage by the House this week.
For the first time in more than a decade, Congress began a serious debate on the drug war at home. President Clinton and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, a Republican from Illinois, had braced for battles over the wisdom of spending $1.7 billion in the next two years in a guerrilla war, but no one expected the debate to swing in a new direction: whether more money is needed for treatment of hard-core addicts in the United States.
A bipartisan group of congressmen introduced three major pro-treatment amendments to the Colombia bill, and while all of them were defeated, the issue had suddenly arrived on the national stage.
There hasn't been such focus on drugs at home since 1986 and 1988, in reaction to the cocaine death of Len Bias, the Boston Celtics first-round draft choice. The demand then was for tougher sentencing in drug cases.
This time, though, with US jails crowded with inmates on drug charges, no one was calling for more jail time for addicts. It was a call to help them.
"When you're up against the president and the speaker of the House, it's much like pro wrestling: The results are pretty much ordained," Representative Jim Ramstad, a Minnesota Republican, said yesterday. "But we just decided to run with it. And it resulted in the longest, most protracted debate we have ever had on drug treatment in my 10 years in Congress."
On the House floor, Ramstad talked impassionedly about his 18 years of recovering from alcoholism. Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a California Republican and a supporter of Colombian aid, talked about his son's drug addiction.
Representative David Obey, a Wisconsin Democrat, shouted: "If you are willing to fight the drug war 1,000 miles from here, why aren't you willing to fight it in your backyard!" Representative Dan Burton, an Indiana Republican, shouted back: "This could get so big that if we don't help Colombia now, we could be forced to send American troops in to deal with it!"
For many who have followed America's war on drugs over the past three decades, from President Nixon's focus on treatment to President Reagan's shift toward cutting supply and putting offenders in jail, this week's discussion was surprising and raised hopes for further debate.
"It is significant because treatment issues have not gotten much attention at all," said Michael Massing, author of "The Fix," an account of the history of US drug policy. "It is raising people's consciousness. One could see the Colombian plan become an issue in the presidential elections."
The drug treatment proponents, led by Representative Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, had one major weapon in their argument: a 1994 Rand study, commissioned by the US government, that showed dollars spent for treatment were 23 times more effective than dollars spent on interdiction in foreign countries.
Peter Reuter, a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, was director of Rand's drug policy research center at the time of the report. He said yesterday that while the report does show conclusive evidence of the financial benefits of treatment over interdiction, it also revealed that the vast majority of addicts return to drugs even after long stints in treatment centers.
He believed the Colombian bill was an opportunity to reopen US drug policy.
"It's a major change, the first big initiative in a long time," Reuter said. "The overseas budget is always very small, and suddenly the scale of this has escalated dramatically, in a way that I believe is especially galling. We're spending money on a bunch of helicopters to help a brutal army crush a bunch of peasants. It's like waving a red flag and Nancy Pelosi responded."
House leadership blocked Pelosi from introducing an amendment that would add $600 million for treatment. But, under House rules, she was able to raise the issue by inserting a symbolic amendment that called for cutting $51 million from the Colombian plan and shifting it into treatment.
The debate lasted 2 1/2 hours.
"We made our point," Pelosi said yesterday in a telephone interview from San Francisco. "There has been a gap in treatment, but there's also been a gap in the debate. You don't hear about treatment. In a presidential election year, with congressional races, you would expect people would recognize this as a problem in our society. . . . Maybe there is a disdain people have for people who use drugs."
The Senate will now take up the Colombian plan.
The issue will stay alive. Senator Paul Wellstone, a Minnesota Democrat, is poised to add an amendment for $400 million to treat addicts. Then, Pelosi and others plan to again fight for more treatment money when the bill goes before a House-Senate conference committee.
The odds for success are low, but, Pelosi said, "This is just the beginning."
"A Closer Look"
September 22, 1999
Show: World News Tonight With Peter Jennings (6:30 Pm ET)
John Cochran, Peter Jennings
Battlefield, Part III
This Is A Rush Transcript. This Copy May Not Be In Its Final Form And May Be Updated.
PETER JENNINGS: The Justice Department said today it has arrested 93 people connected to a powerful Mexican drug cartel. They also got tons of cocaine and marijuana. Stopping drugs at their source has been a big priority for the government, and it's been spending a great deal to keep drug dealers and users in prison. We've talked about that this week. Tonight we're going to take "A Closer Look" at the growing pressure to try another strategy. Here's ABC's John Cochran.
UNDERCOVER POLICE OFFICER: Ma'am, you're under arrest. You need to step out of the car.
JOHN COCHRAN, ABC News: (voice-over) After years of tough drug laws, it would be a huge change to put as much emphasis on treatment as on putting people in prison for long mandatory sentences.
JONATHAN CAULKINS, Rand Drug Policy Research Center : We reacted by throwing the kitchen sink at the problem, with a particular emphasis on enforcement.
JOHN COCHRAN: (voice-over) It has been an expensive policy, quintupling the number of drug offenders in prison -- now at 400,000 -- and costing $25,000 a year to keep each of them behind bars. And after they are released, half of them wind up back in prison within three years.
Gen. BARRY McCAFFREY, (Ret.), Dir., Office of National Drug Control Policy: You can be tough on crime and also understand that locking somebody up for six years at $150,000 in and of itself doesn't solve anything.
JOHN COCHRAN: (voice-over) Trying to stop the flow of drugs from countries such as Colombia can also be expensive. A Rand Corporation study reported that providing treatment for cocaine users is seven times more cost effective than trying to cut off the supply of cocaine. Some experts say the U.S. should also focus more on education, such as the administration's new and relatively cheap ads aimed at persuading teenagers that drugs are uncool...
Why drugs keep flowing: too little emphasis on treating heavy users
Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA)
July 20, 1994, Wednesday
Rand study on cocaine finds law enforcement not as effective
A MAJOR new study indicates that the United States is emphasizing the wrong tactics in its multibillion-dollar, worldwide effort to slow a heavy cocaine-use ''epidemic'' that is ravaging its inner-city neighborhoods and suburban homes.
Dollar for dollar, spending on treatment of cocaine users is far more effective than the high-profile police and military action the US mounted throughout the 1980s to curb the flow of cocaine, suggests the California-based Rand Drug Policy Research Center in twin reports last month.
The studies are the first ever to compare the effectiveness of various domestic and international anti-cocaine tactics. The results are seen as applicable to other drugs, such as heroin.
Rand researchers were able to show that even if only 13 percent of cocaine users stayed off the drug after counseling, treatment is still twice as effective at reducing overall cocaine consumption as domestic and international law enforcement efforts.
Clinton administration officials say they are following the reports' recommendations and trying to shift more of the $ 12 billion US anti-drug effort toward treating hard-core drug users.
But critics say budget shortfalls and partisan bickering are freezing expensive, ineffective anti-drug policies in place. Dr. Herbert Kleber, medical director of the Columbia University Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, says President Clinton needs to fight harder for a treatment increase: ''I see good intentions, but no follow-through.''
Dr. Kleber is referring to Clinton's campaign pledge to provide drug treatment ''on demand,'' and the administration's request for $ 355 million in its fiscal 1995 budget for new heavy drug-user treatment programs.
''We're focusing our efforts on the hard-core drug user,'' says Lee Brown, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Mr. Brown adds that the Clinton health-care proposal, if enacted, would cover 30 days of drug treatment.
But a House appropriations subcommittee has cut the increase to $ 60 million and Clinton's health care proposal is stalled, essentially leaving US anti-drug spending where it was in the 1980s - 65 percent to law enforcement and 35 percent to treatment and education.
Kleber, who was a drug policy official in the Bush administration, says a shift in policy is long overdue. ''The funding for treatment has been a bipartisan failure,'' he says. ''The Republican administrations did not ask for enough for treatment, and Congress gave us a third of what we asked for.''
C. Peter Rydell, principal author of the study says, the ''real loser'' in the study was US programs to seize trafficker assets, destroy coca crops, and aid local law enforcement in cocaine-producing countries such as Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru.
Latin American governments have long questioned US drug policies, arguing that the problem is the US demand for drugs that fuels drug production in their countries. An accompanying Rand study found that despite a drop in total cocaine users from a peak of 9 million in the early 1980s to just over 7 million today, a sharp increase in heavy cocaine users has kept total US cocaine consumption constant.
The number of heavy cocaine users jumped sharply, from approximately a million in 1980 to 1.7 million in 1992. The rise was due in part to the advent of a new, highly-addictive, more purified form of cocaine known as ''crack'' in the 1980s. Drug policy experts say the US has gotten mixed results from the over $ 100 billion it has spent on anti-drug efforts since 1980. The total number of drug users has been declining, according to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, but last year's survey found that reported drug use among high school students increased for the first time since 1979.
The author of the Rand study and drug policy experts warn that aggressive domestic law-enforcement efforts must be maintained to discourage casual drug use, and treatment for heavy users must be increased.
Peter Reuter, a government professor at the University of Maryland, says that, politically, treatment for heavy users is very unpopular.
''It's a population that is in and out of programs, commits a lot of crimes, and does a lot of harm to society,'' he says, ''but that's the reason to treat them.''
Best Weapon In Drug War Is Treatment
Newsday (New York)
June 14, 1994, Tuesday,
Pg. A15, Other Edition:A21 City
By William Douglas.
Washington - Treatment for cocaine addiction is the most cost-effective weapon in the nation's war on drugs and should receive far more funding, according to a new study released yesterday.
The Rand Corp. study recommends shifting 25 percent of the nation's drug-control budget to fund treatment of heavy users of cocaine and crack, a smokable form of the drug. That would cut U.S. consumption of the drug by one-third, the study concludes.
Treating cocaine abuse is seven times more cost-effective than other drug-fighting strategies, including interdiction and incarceration, according to the nonprofit institute.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy, which, along with the Army, funded most of the study, agreed with most of the Rand findings, but dismissed the idea of shifting funds.
"In the final analysis, an effective national strategy cannot be accomplished by funding some effective programs at the expense of others," said Fred Garcia, deputy director of the demand reduction division of the drug control policy office.
The study, which dealt only with cocaine, says use of the drug could drop by 1 percent if federal, state and local governments spent an additional $ 34 million on treatment.
To achieve the same results, the governments would have to spend an additional $ 246 million on domestic law enforcement; $ 366 million more on interdiction, the confiscation of cocaine or cocaine-related assets by agencies like the U.S. Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization or the U.S. military; or $ 783 million extra to quash cocaine production at the source in countries like Colombia, Peru and Bolivia.
In 1992, the United States spent $ 13 billion combating drugs, about $ 1 billion of which went toward cocaine treatment, according to the study.
"Even by conservative accounting, treating heavy [cocaine] users is not only cost-effective, but cost-effective in the absolute sense," said Jonathan P. Caulkins, co-director of Rand's Drug Policy Research Center.
Cocaine use exploded in the mid-1980s with the introduction of crack. The Rand study says the nation's cocaine consumption has remained at its peak level, even though the number of users has dropped from 9 million to about 7 million. That's because the number of heavy users - those who used cocaine at least once a week - has increased to an estimated 1.7 million people. Heavy users accounted for about two-thirds of the cocaine demand in 1992, the study says. In 1980, less than one-half the demand was from heavy users.
While stressing a need for a balanced attack on drug use, President Bill Clinton's drug-policy experts say treatment is at the forefront of the national drug-control strategy.
Clinton has asked Congress for $ 13.2 billion for his anti-drug plan for fiscal 1995, a $ 1 billion increase over the current fiscal year. Of his request, $ 7.8 billion is targeted for drug supply reduction programs.
The president wants to spend $ 2.9 billion on treatment programs for all hardcore drug users, a $ 360-million increase from fiscal 1994. The request includes $ 355 million for a program to treat 74,000 addicts.
The Rand study says that by increasing the treatment budget for hardcore cocaine addicts to $ 4 billion by reallocating about 25 percent of the money from the other components of the drug control strategy, all heavy cocaine users could be treated once each year.
The result, Caulkins said, would be a drop in the estimated $ 10 billion cocaine costs society in terms of crime and lost worker productivity.
While the study praises the benefits of drug treatment, it concedes that treatment alone will not solve America's drug crisis.
U.S. Should Boost Therapy Of Coke Addicts, Study Urges
The Times Union (Albany, NY)
June 14, 1994, Tuesday,
WILLIAM DOUGLAS Newsday
Treatment for cocaine addiction is the most cost-effective weapon in the nation's war on drugs and should receive far more funding, according to a new study released Monday.
The Rand Corp. study recommends shifting 25 percent of the nation's drug-control budget to fund treatment of heavy users of cocaine. That would cut U.S. consumption of the drug by one-third, the study concludes.
Treating cocaine abuse is seven times more cost effective than other drug-fighting strategies, including interdiction and incarceration, according to the non-profit research institute.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy, which, along with the Army, funded most of the study's cost, agreed with most of the Rand findings, but dismissed the idea of shifting funds.
''In the final analysis, an effective national strategy cannot be accomplished by funding some effective programs at the expense of others,'' said Fred W. Garcia, deputy director of the demand reduction division of the drug control policy office.
The study says cocaine use in the nation could drop by 1 percent if federal, state and local governments spent an additional $ 34 million on treatment programs.
To achieve the same results, the governments would have to spend:
* an additional $ 246 million on domestic law enforcement;
* $ 366 million more on interdiction, the confiscation of cocaine or cocaine-related assets by agencies like the U.S. Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization or the U.S. military or
* $ 783 million extra to quash cocaine production at the source in countries like Colombia, Peru and Bolivia.
In 1992, the United States spent $ 13 billion combating drugs, about $ 1 billion of which went toward cocaine treatment, according to the study.
''Even by conservative accounting, treating heavy (cocaine) users is not only cost effective, but cost effective in the absolute sense,'' said Jonathan P. Caulkins, co-director of Rand's Drug Policy Research Center.
Cocaine use exploded in the mid-1980s with the introduction of crack, a smokeable form of the drug. The Rand study says the nation's cocaine consumption has remained at its peak level, even though the number of users has dropped from 9 million to about 7 million.
That's because the number of heavy users those who used cocaine at least once a week has increased to an estimated 1.7 million people. Heavy users accounted for about two-thirds of the cocaine demand in 1992, the study says. In 1980, less than one half of the demand was from heavy users.
While stressing a need for a balanced attack on drug use, President Clinton's drug-policy experts say treatment is at the forefront of the national drug-control strategy.
Clinton has asked Congress for $ 13.2 billion for his anti-drug plan for fiscal 1995, a $ 1 billion increase over the current fiscal year. Of his request, $ 7.8 billion is targeted for drug supply reduction programs.
The president wants to spend $ 2.9 billion on treatment programs for all hardcore drug users, a $ 360 million increase from fiscal 1994. The request includes $ 355 million for a program to treat 74,000 addicts.
Drug Warriors See Long Battle, Grim Prospects
January 22, 1990, Monday
By Joel Connelly P-I Reporter
A senior economist with the RAND Corp, Peter Reuter, noted that drug trafficking was not deeply dented by record seizure of 89 tons of cocaine in 1988.
"The amount seized cost $500 million to $1 billion to replace in a $20 billion business," said Reuter, who heads RAND's Drug Policy Research Center.
Dissenter in the Drug War
The National Journal
November 4, 1989
Vol. 21, No. 44; Pg. 2692
By W. John Moore
While Republicans and Democrats try to outdo one another in fighting dangerous narcotics, critics say the latest anti-drug strategy is just another bust.
It is the year 2000. Nearly 1.4 million people are in prison, enough to suggest an American gulag. At least as many others are being held in an assortment of boot camps, jails and psychiatric centers.
Nevertheless, violent crime continues. Drug-related murders have soared to 10,000 annually, 10 times the number in 1989. To squelch the violence, tanks are deployed not only in the nation's capital but in many inner cities across the country. New criminal laws have gutted some constitutional protections.
Federal spending on the anti-drug effort totals $ 78 billion, a tenfold jump from 1989. Yet drug abuse is rampant, and new "designer drugs" make "crack" seem almost benign. The nation's war on drugs, led by President William H. Bennett, is going nowhere.
This apocalyptic vision comes courtesy of the Drug Policy Foundation, a Washington-based group dedicated to changing the nation's drug policy. The foundation says its grim scenario is based on current trends, including the key elements of President Bush's anti-drug campaign.
Arnold S. Trebach, president of the Drug Policy Foundation and a persistent critic of the federal government's various anti-drug plans, argues that a strategy based on halting narcotics imports and punishing casual drug users has failed. "The Bennett-Bush plan is a disaster," Trebach scoffed. "It's like sending 100,000 troops to Vietnam after Tet."
In the war on drugs, Trebach and a small band of other dissenters have declared themselves conscientious objectors. They say they are unwilling to fight a war of such unrealistic goals, debatable strategy and dubious tactics.
Congressional Democrats question Bush's devotion to the drug war, accusing the President of fighting the war "on the cheap," and many of them demand more -- especially money.
But the dissenters directly challenge the approach of the government's latest anti-drug crusade. Most of them protest what they call the futility of a Bush Administration plan that relies almost entirely on law enforcement measures. Others say it's simplistic to consider all illicit drugs equally dangerous. Most support Bush's aims but dispute his methods.
It is an eclectic assortment of critics who challenge what is undeniably a popular anti-drug effort. It includes libertarians and leftists, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, policy experts and police chiefs. They by no means agree on what a new national anti-drug strategy ought to include. But what they have in common is that they call for drastic changes in current policy.
"The 'National Drug Control Strategy' still overwhelmingly relies on the 'lock 'em-up' mentality -- harsher penalties, more arrests and convictions and more prisons," Neil R. Sonnett, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, told a press conference.
Little effort has been made to treat drug abuse as a health problem rather than a legal one, the dissenters contend. "We need to look more to the Surgeon General and less to the Attorney General," said criminal defense lawyer Kevin B. Zeese.
Compounding the error, some critics say, is the fact that Bush's plan targets even casual drug users for strict civil punishments, including eviction from public housing, loss of a driver's license and seizure of property, even though studies show that consumption of drugs by such users has declined.
The long-standing emphasis on attacking the supply side of the drug crisis doesn't work, critics charge. Eradication efforts have failed miserably, they say, and interdiction programs have backfired, with easy-to-smuggle cocaine replacing bulkier marijuana in drug trafficking and seizures of drugs in Florida leading to the opening of major supply routes in the Southwest. Drug smugglers have evaded stepped-up border-interdiction efforts on land by transporting drugs in airplanes and boats. The most dramatic proof of failure, the critics say, is the street-sale price of drugs: Despite all efforts to halt supplies, cocaine prices have dropped.
Some legal experts worry that the drug war threatens to undermine civil liberties and warn that the call for more drug testing is only the first step in this erosion of liberties. Congress, the critics note, has tinkered with the Bush plan by making it easier for the government to make pretrial seizures of cash and other assets, and Bennett, director of the National Drug Control Policy Office, wants states to force treatment on drug users even if they haven't been convicted of crimes.
"Our concern is that if we are not vigilant, the war on drugs becomes a war on the Constitution," said H. Scott Wallace, the legislative director of the criminal lawyers' group. Scalia, who was widely expected to take a hard-line view on law-and-order issues, dissented when the Court this year upheld mandatory drug testing for Customs Service employees. "I thought we had gone off the deep end a little in response to this particular crisis," he said in a speech at the University of Georgia law school.
Conservative economic guru Milton Friedman agrees with liberal former Attorney General Ramsey Clark that the attack on drugs is misdirected. In an open letter to Bennett published in The Wall Street Journal this fall, Friedman raised concerns about the government's reliance on the criminal justice system to solve the drug problem. "Every friend of freedom, and I know you are one, must be as revolted as I am by the prospect of turning the United States into an armed camp, by the vision of jails filled with casual drug users and of an army of enforcers empowered to invade the liberty of citizens on slight evidence," Freidman wrote.
And Clark, now a New York City lawyer, writing in The Nation, asked: "Is it possible that a country that talks of freedom, equality and justice and claims any sense of responsibility, decency or a degree of intelligence would offer more prisons as a solution to anything . . .?"
Other experts ask whether the drug policy is grounded in reality or rhetoric. Mark A. R. Kleiman, a lecturer in criminal justice at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, has questioned the success of anti-marijuana enforcement efforts. But more important, Kleiman said, government policy makers no longer seem to care whether the war on drugs will produce victory. Their approach, he said, is simply to "attack everywhere and never retreat."
Some critics such as Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke support legalization of some drugs. They assert that the side effects of government's prohibition of drugs, especially crime and violence, are more harmful than the drugs themselves. Others advocate decriminalization of the uses of some drugs, which would be a retreat from the harsh punishment and incarceration of drug users at the core of most anti-drug measures. Many critics say that social controls, similar to those that have brought about a decline in drinking and smoking, will reduce drug use by the middle class. Hard-core users are a tougher problem, the critics concede, but they say that a government policy aimed at cutting unemployment and treating addicts would fare at least as well as the punitive approach.
Under the Administration drug plan announced on Sept. 5 and now winding its way through Congress, slight shifts in drug policy would be made. Bush earmarked $ 165 million for drug treatment, a 28 per cent increase over current spending. Congress has added $ 800 million for drug education, prevention and treatment to the fiscal 1990 budget. The Administration sought only a 1 per cent increase for interdiction efforts, the centerpiece of earlier campaigns.
Nevertheless, 70 per cent of the money in the President's plan would go to law enforcement initiatives. Bush linked his anti-drug message to his earlier crime package, which called for a federal death penalty, limits on appeals by convicted criminals and fewer restrictions on prosecutors' use of illegally obtained evidence.
Congressional Democrats have responded by voting for more money for treatment programs while showing some reluctance to adopt the most punitive measures. But the Democrats differ more in degree than in philosophy with the Administration strategy. House-Senate conferees in October reached agreement a on drug war spending bill.
The key part of Bush's package would expand federal prison capacity by 85 per cent by increasing annual spending from the current $ 631 million to $ 1.5 billion by fiscal 1991. To accomplish its goal, the Administration would have to build a new federal prison every week. Another part of the plan would more than quadruple financial aid to state and local police. An additional $ 350 million would go to Bolivia, Colombia and Peru for military aid and to finance eradication of the coca crop.
Behind these proposals is a belief that only tough tactics against drug users as well as dealers can end the drug menace. Therefore, the plan envisions more cops on the street and more prison space for drug dealers as well as mandatory treatment for some users and boot camps for young offenders. Schools are encouraged to expel drug-abusing students. Public housing authorities would get rid of drug-using tenants. The Administration's goal is a 50 per cent drop in drug use over the next decade.
At least some experts doubt that the approach outlined by the President will make much headway against the drug epidemic. Because of the magnitude of the problem -- an estimated 60 million Americans spend roughly $ 150 billion annually on illicit drugs, according to government studies -- the government must find a new strategy, the experts say. "What has clearly failed over the last two decades is this law enforcement strategy," said Gene Guerrero, a Washington-based field co-ordinator for the ACLU. Despite a tripling of resources devoted to drug enforcement efforts over the past decade, Guerrero said, "We have more potent drugs more readily available at cheaper prices than at any time in our nation's history. And when you cut through the rhetoric, what the Bush-Bennett plan proposes is merely more of the same."
Jefferson Morley, Washington editor of The Nation, who recently tried crack to determine its allure, wrote in a recent article that drug-control efforts have only stimulated a booming trade. Morley views drug trafficking not so much as a scourge to be stamped out than as a renegade version of capitalism. "The cocaine economy is not a aberration in the national consumer economy but a microcosm of it," he wrote in The Nation.
Leftist journalist Morley has an intellectual bedfellow in George P. Shultz, Secretary of State in the Reagan Administration. The Wall Street Journal published Shultz's view that the anti-drug campaign fosters a market in which prices far exceed costs. "With these incentives,' Shultz said, "demand creates its own supply and a criminal network along with it." Shultz's solution: Let addicts buy drugs at regulated prices.
Efforts to halt drug imports at U.S. borders have proved a debacle, according to drug war critics. Still a major element in the war on drugs, the costly interdiction campaign has produced disappointing results, they say.
Most government and private estimates reveal the the U.S. enforcement agencies nabbed only 3-10 per cent of the illegal drugs coming into this country. Congress's General Accounting Office has reported that after the Navy and Coast Guard spent $ 40 million on interdiction efforts in 1988, the two agencies seized only 17 ships.
A 1988 RAND Corp. study for the Defense Department concluded that even the most stringent interdiction efforts would not slash cocaine consumption. "If you spent more money on interdiction, could you cut imports by, say, 10 per cent?" asked Peter Reuter, co-director of RAND's drug policy research center in Washington. "The answer is that it would be extremely unlikely."
Although interdiction efforts have snared more cocaine, total imports over the past several years have increased. Cocaine prices have actually dropped in Miami, from $ 55,000 per kilo in 1981 to perhaps as low as $ 12,000 per kilo in 1988, Reuter told the House Government Operations Committee in October.
The problem, according to Reuter, is that interdiction efforts fail to raise prices because the cost of drugs at the source, including labor costs, is so low that the risks posed by border police are included in the street-sale price -- becoming, in effect, a tax easily passed on to consumers.
Even successful interdiction efforts may have created problems, the critics say. By treating all drugs as equally evil, government regulators may have encouraged dealers to switch from marijuana, which is relatively cheap and bulky, to the more profitable and compact, and much more dangerous, cocaine.
Moreover, the government's marijuana enforcement program merely substituted more-potent domestic marijuana for less-dangerous foreign supplies, according to Harvard's Kleiman, author of Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood Press, 1989). Although federal spending on marijuana enforcement has doubled since 1982, the book concludes, that drug is more widely available, "the effort to interrupt the supply has failed."
Kleiman said in an interview that he is not opposed to all drug enforcement efforts, but he recommends shifting the half-billion dollars in the federal enforcement budget to state and local police.
Other critics raise questions about the Administration's overwhelming emphasis on the criminal justice system. Patrick V. Murphy, once New York City's police commissioner and now director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Drug Policy Board, said that police chiefs around the country believe that treatment on demand for drug users is as important as punishment.
Police chiefs are getting frustrated with the law-and-order approach, Murphy said. "They say, 'Why am I risking a cop's life to bust one lousy crack house when we have 50 of them in this city?' And they are getting uptight about the shoot-outs of their officers and innocent bystanders." (For a report on city and state anti-drug programs, see NJ, 9/30/89, p. 2388)
Bush's plan, like Reagan Administration efforts, focuses on more prisons as a solution to drug-related crime. During the 1980s, the federal prison population more than doubled, from 329,821 in 1981 to 673,565 in 1989. In the first six months of 1989, it climbed almost 15 per cent. Drug convictions are the fastest-growing category in federal incarcerations, up 161 per cent from 1980-87.
For many, the swelling prison population figures provide reassuring proof that those responsible for drug-related crimes are going to jail. But the critics say there's no connection between the growth in prison population and safe streets, noting that in Washington, 40,000 people have been sent to jail since 1985 but the murder rate is among the nation's highest.
"It is not right to incarcerate people at that rate," said Alexandria (Va.) lawyer Zeese, who said that the United States could become the first free country with more than one million people behind bars, a number exceeded only by the Soviet Union and South Africa. Zeeses, who in December will become vice president of the Drug Policy Foundation, said that if these figures came from China or the Soviet Union, "we would say these countries are out of step with their own people."
Incarceration is the toughest measure employed against drug users, but the Administration, with its emphasis on enforcement, has devised an attack plan that includes other moves against users, from loss of a driver's license to widespread drug testing of many employees. As for drug dealers, Bush's plan calls for a federal death penalty for drug kingpins, even those not convicted of murder. Bennett's proposal in late July, to encourage states to force drug treatment on some users even if they had not been found guilty in a criminal trial, was included in the Bush plan, but the idea remains on the back burner.
Many critics say such proposals compromise civil liberties. "In every area that is touched by the war on drugs, you see an erosion of rights," the ACLU's Guerrero said. "The warning sounds are increasingly loud."
But the American public seems receptive to virtually any weapon that might stop the drug plague. In a USA Today poll, almost half the respondents said they wanted stiffer punishments in drug cases. An ABC News-Washington Post poll in September showed that 62 per cent of those questioned would give up "a few of the freedoms we have in this country" to significantly reduce drug use. More than half said they would let police, without a search warrant, search the homes of suspected drug dealers.
The federal government is already trampling on fundamental due process, privacy rights and 4th Amendment protections against illegal search and seizure to win the drug war, according to civil libertarians and defense lawyers. Nor is Congress always protective of those rights, they add. For example, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., sponsored an amendment to this year's Defense Department authorization bill, which later was killed, to allow the Coast Guard and the Drug Enforcement Administration to shoot down civilian aircraft in extraordinary circumstances involving drug trafficking. And for the third time in three years, Congress voted to increase the mandatory minimum sentence for minors convicted of certain drug offenses.
The Senate has approved several amendments to the Bush drug bill that the criminal defense bar finds troublesome, including mandatory detention of serious drug offenders pending sentencing or appeal. Another amendment would raise to $ 500,000 the value of property (and put no ceiling on the amount of cash) that the government can seize through administrative forfeitures.
Using forfeiture proceedings, federal agencies have seized the boats, cars and homes of alleged drug dealers. Usually, a judge considers the seizure in a separate civil proceeding. But under the Senate-passed amendment, criminal defense lawyers say, an official of the same agency that seized the goods would determine the legality of the forfeiture.
Another Senate-passed amendment would allow eviction from public housing of tenants involved in drug-related cases without allowing some grievance procedures that are normally required under the Federal Housing Act.
"The criminal justice system," Zeese said, "has changed from a system of true justice which we could be proud of to a weapon to be used in a war."
Wallace of the criminal defense lawyers group said that the Administration wants to impose numerous civil penalties that stop short of prison terms for drug users. There is a downside to this approach, he said: "There are a whole host of benefits that could be denied through civil or administrative process rather than through the criminal process." College students, for example, could lose federal grants without the procedural protections guaranteed in a criminal case, such as the right to a jury trial and the right to counsel and strict standards of proof. "This circumvents the protections built into the criminal process," Wallace said.
Many critics of Bush's plan say that sooner or later, the federal government will recognize its mistake and adopt a more sensible policy to control drugs. "There will be one more round of super-drug enforcement," predicted Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. "But two or three years from now, when nothing has changed, when inner-city neighborhoods are still overcome by crack, when foreign governments are still left tottering by drug cartels, then there will be more debate about why these typical solutions are no solutions at all."
Study: U.S. losing war on drugs
United Press International
June 26, 2001, Tuesday
By Stephanie K. Taylor
The United States is losing the war on drugs because of the shortcomings and failures of current U.S. drug policy, says a recent report from a major think tank.
U.S. policy, which is focused on interdiction and incarceration, has failed to reduce the availability of drugs, while forcing U.S. anti-drug institutions to watch helplessly as street prices of illegal substances mysteriously fell, said the report.
The report's author Peter Reuter -- a drug policy analyst with the RAND Institute and the founder and former director of RAND's Drug Policy Research Center -- said that this failure occurred despite a more than threefold increase in allotted drug war spending, from $10 billion annually in the 1980s to $35 billion in the late 1990s.
The paper, "Supply-Side Drug Control," published in the Milken Institute Review in May, said that three-fourths of that $35 billion (of which $18 billion is spent by the federal government and the rest spent by state and local governments), is spent on apprehending and punishing drug dealers and users.
Most of the people who are incarcerated for drug selling are from the bottom level of the distribution system, the report said.
The report acknowledges the success of the enforcement policy in keeping the price of drugs high. It cites operations researcher Jonathan Caulkins, who estimates that, if legal, cocaine might retail for as little as $5 a gram. It currently retails for $100 a gram.
It currently costs $10,000 to ship a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cocaine from Bogota, Colombia, to Miami, but if cocaine were legal, Federal Express would charge only a $100, Reuter said.
"The real question, though, is not whether interdiction raises the price of illicit drugs, but whether it is possible through tougher enforcement to make the drugs much more expensive and less accessible than they are now," Reuter wrote. "And to date, smugglers' adaptability has limited the success of interdiction surges."
So, although the drug problem is "gradually lessening," Reuter said that this has been accomplished at great cost through many dimensions.
Reuter is not alone in his low appraisal of current U.S. drug policy. Think tank scholars on both sides of the political spectrum acknowledge the limitations of the current policy, and experts from both the right and left say the U.S. needs to begin to look at the drug problem as a public health problem and not a criminal problem.
Timothy Lynch, director of the Project on Criminal Justice at the libertarian Cato Institute, says even government officials see limitations of the current policy.
"Well, we've maintained for a long time that the government's efforts have been quite ineffective," Lynch says. "And most government officials who are candid will admit this."
Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at the liberal Institute for Policy Studies, agrees that the current enforcement-based policy has been ineffective in curtailing the U.S. drug problem.
"Perhaps there is some level of coercion that would work, but I seriously doubt that we would want to live in that type of society," Tree said, citing the Iranian government as an example.
Lynch cites corruption within law enforcement units, drug overdose-related deaths, and addicts' petty thefts to finance their habits as a few of society's ills that have resulted from an enforcement-based drug policy.
Law enforcement units not only turn a blind eye to illegal activity as a result of bribery, but perform official duties such as arrests and search and seizures to aid gangs in the current atmosphere of gang rivalry.
What's Lynch's standard libertarian answer to these criminal justice and public health challenges? The decriminalization of drugs.
"We have to have a whole new approach to the problem of drug abuse," Lynch says. "Should somebody go to jail just for using drugs? No."
And some liberals can understand Lynch's reasoning.
"Prohibition doesn't mean that we control drugs, but that we have given up the right to control drugs," Tree says.
Lynch says that in a legal regime the so-called black market violence that results from gang rivalry would decrease, along with the number of petty crimes addicts commit to finance their habits, and that drugs would be much less expensive.
Lynch also thinks there would be significant improvements in public health. The legalization of drugs would allow the government to regulate the quality of drugs, reducing the number of overdose deaths that result from impure products, Lynch says, and addicts would no longer be forced to share needles that can transmit HIV.
However, Sally Satel, M.D., the W. H. Brady fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, warns of more addicts and the social pathology that she believes would result with the decriminalization of hard drugs.
Satel acknowledges legitimate concerns about the current drug policy. However, based on her experience as a staff psychiatrist at the Oasis Drug Treatment Clinic in Washington, she is more worried about the massive trade-offs -- more users addicted to cheaper and easier-to-obtain drugs--that she thinks would be brought by decriminalization.
"Maybe there are some aspects of the current system that we can save," Satel says.
Tree does not think decriminalization is necessarily the solution to the current policy woes, although he does see the need to regulate drugs. He believes there are a variety of policy options between prohibition and legalization that should be tested.
Top priority, however, should be universal treatment on request, he says. Insufficient funding sometimes forces clinics to turn away addicts for several months, Tree says, and they may or may not return months later for help.
Treatment programs seem to very popular with think tank scholars, and Satel also supports an increased focus on diverting addicts to treatment. Although he does not think they are the sole solution, Reuter writes that treatment programs have proven themselves effective and are also desirable in terms of benefit to cost.
While most of them support treatment, think tanks analysts say that the other leg of demand-based policy--prevention programs--are currently unsuccessful. Reuter's report criticizes the DARE program -- which is ubiquitous in schools across the country -- and he is doubtful about the effectiveness of any type of prevention program.
"There is no reason to believe that we know how to immunize kids against drug abuse," he writes.
Tree would also like to see the DARE program abandoned. Although he doesn't know exactly what type of program should replace it, he believes the government should experiment with a variety of approaches.
Think tank scholars on all sides of the ideological debate seem to realize the ineffectiveness of current U.S. drug policy, but most are uncertain about what steps to take to fix the problem.
"I don't know what an ideal drug policy would like," Tree says, "but I know what the contours of (such a) policy would look like." It would be based on European models, but adapted to fit with the cultural differences in the U.S., he says.
Tree is dissatisfied with what he sees as a lack of flexibility to explore new approaches to drug policy. "Our current policy doesn't work, but we're not being allowed to experiment with what might," he says.