Government Report: Feds Have Failed Every Goal Set In The War On Drugs

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation
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The government is failing to make any progress in the majority of its objectives to combat illegal drug use and drug related deaths, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

In 2010, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONCDP), which is responsible for coordinating and implementing of drug control policy across the federal government, established seven goals to slash drug use and its harmful consequences, to bet met by 2015 as part of the National Drug Control Strategy.

Three years later, the GAO reported in March that ONDCP and other agencies had made almost no progress toward achieving the goals set out in 2010. In the subsequent two years, the situation in some cases has actually got worse.

In November 2015, ONDCP published its annual strategy and performance report. The report showed that despite tens of billions of dollars in funding and millions of man hours, the government had made progress in just one of the seven goals laid out in the 2010 strategy. No progress has been made for three of the goals, and there is a mixed picture for the remaining three.

“Overall, none of the goals in the Strategy have been fully achieved,” the GAO said on Wednesday. Reacting to the GAO’s findings the Deputy Director Drug Policy Alliance Michael Collins told The Daily Caller News Foundation “the government continues to fail in its drug policy goals because it still places too much emphasis on enforcement, rather than treating drug use as a public health issue.”

He added that “the Obama Administration has made progress in drug policy reform, and the fresh leadership at ONDCP is welcome. Nonetheless, the drug control budget still dedicates over $2bn annually to the DEA – a failed and flawed agency – while harm reduction and treatment are woefully underfunded.  Unless this changes, the government will continue to fall short in its aims.”

The ONCDP aimed to slash 30-day prevalence of drug use among 12- to 17-year-olds from 10.1 percent in 2015 to 8.8 percent in 2015 – so far, there has been no progress in achieving this goal.

There has been, however, a moderate improvement in cutting the lifetime prevalence of eighth graders who have used illicit drugs, with the percentage falling from 19.9 percent to 16.9 percent over the past five years.

There was no statistically significant change in the percentage of the 30-day prevalence of drug use among young adults aged 18-25. Embarrassingly for the ONCDP, the number of drug induced deaths, emergency room visits thanks to drug use and HIV infections attributable to drug use have actually increased.

For the remaining goals of reducing the prevalence of drugged driving and the number of chronic drug user, there is no data available. Opponents of the war on drugs argued the GAO report highlighted the failure of drug prohibition.

Leaders in the marijuana industry agreed with Collins and lamented the failure of the government’s drug control strategy. “The GAO’s report drives home a point that essentially all participants in the cannabis industry agree with- that the war on drugs has been, is currently, and in all likelihood will continue to be a failure on the part of reducing drug trafficking, addiction and prevalence in our culture,” said Derek Peterson, CEO of cannabis-focused agriculture company Terra Tech.

“This report will hopefully result in greater and more targeted action on the part of legislators to handle drug addiction as a public health issue, as opposed to a criminal activity.”

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