Ex-DOJ drug intelligence chief: War on drugs is 'insanity'

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The former head of the Justice Department's National Drug Intelligence Center says the war on drugs has been a massive failure and argues for a focus on treatment in a Dec. 27 paper.

The paper (.pdf) was published (though its views not endorsed) by the Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute. In it, Michael Walther, who was a military judge between stints at the DOJ, calls the prevailing counterdrug strategy of the past four decades "insanity." Billions of dollars spent annually on supply reduction and law enforcement hasn't resulted in less available drugs.

Walther favors a solution that includes addiction treatment on demand and mandated treatment as a condition of probation or pretrial release for drug offenders.

Additionally, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy should reorganize to take more control over the federal counterdrug budget. Interagency rivalries have led to wasteful and duplicative efforts, Walther says.

Budget constraints could present an opportunity to phase out expensive programs in foreign countries such as crop eradication and aid programs for police and military counterdrug units. They haven't successfully reduced drug availability in the United States, Walther says.

Treatment for addicts is relatively cheap and appears to limit drug use effectively. While President Obama and officials in his administration have highlighted the need for more treatment, their actions haven't matched their rhetoric, Walther says. As he sees it, Obama's counterdrug strategy is "virtually indistinguishable from that of his predecessors."

The imbalance between supply- and demand-reduction spending has continued under Obama at roughly the same levels, about two-to-one in favor of supply reduction.

But as for legalization, Walther says it "is almost certainly not the answer."

For more:
- download the paper, "Insanity: Four Decades of U.S. Counterdrug Strategy" (.pdf)

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