White House Unveils New Drug Strategy

Amidst a wave of media fanfare, President Clinton and Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey unveiled a new 10-year anti-drug strategy this past Monday in Miami. The program asks for a record high $15.1 billion budget to initiate a “decade-long commitment” to reduce drug use in America.

Although both the President and the Drug Czar emphasized that the new strategy is chiefly focused on “motivat[ing] America’s youth to reject illegal drugs and substance abuse,” a comprehensive breakdown of the 1997 budget request illustrates that the plan’s largest component remains domestic law enforcement. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the President is requesting $8.3 billion in fiscal year 1997 for domestic enforcement.

In addition, McCaffrey admitted that the new 1996 Clinton anti-drug strategy is essentially the same as those of previous administrations. “Everything in this strategy is already being done,” he told reporters in Miami. “I don’t think the drug strategy has new tricks in it.”

In a follow-up conference this past Wednesday in Washington, D.C., McCaffrey reiterated this point. This strategy contains “no sudden surprise attacks,” he said. “[We] recognize that there is no silver bullet.” McCaffrey added that he sees the new approach as a “permanent commitment to young people” and was optimistic that “there is no reason why we can’t return America to a … pre-Vietnam era level of drug use.” When asked by the moderator what he felt about the idea of legalization, McCaffrey called the notion “nonsense.”

“The federal government’s war on drugs has risen from a $1.5 billion yearly battle in 1981 to $15.1 billion battle today. During that time, America has experienced millions of casualties and very few gains,” said NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre. “The Clinton administration’s latest proposals are simply an escalation of the same policies that resulted in the arrest of nearly one-half million marijuana smokers in 1994 alone.”

For more information on the 1996 National Drug Control Strategy or the just-released Gallup Poll: A Look at How American’s View the Country’s Drug Problem, please contact Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500. For additional information, please contact the Drug Policy Foundation at (202) 537-5005.