Some advocates on both the liberal and conservative side are hoping to use the federal fiscal crisis as a vehicle for reducing federal spending on drug enforcement, reports The Nation. Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance called it “an unprecedented opportunity to defund the federal drug war.” The conservative Heritage Foundation issued a report before the midterm elections calling for $343 billion in federal budget cuts, including elimination of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the Justice Department’s Byrne/JAG grant program that funds regional drug task forces, as well as many other criminal justice programs.
At the state level, where the economic crisis has been felt most acutely, at least eighteen legislatures have reduced or eliminated mandatory minimum sentences, and more than two dozen have restored early-release programs and offered treatment instead of incarceration for some drug offenders. The Nation says, however, that the Obama administration is in no hurry to scale the drug war back to any significant degree, much less end it. “The drug war is now too deeply rooted in our nation’s political and economic structure to be cast aside” says the magazine. “The war rhetoric may have ended and the song may have changed, but the system hums along.”