The White House named Michael Botticelli to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the office charged with overseeing and administering federal drug policy, the Washington Post reports. The White House has been moving toward dealing with drug use as a public health issue, rather than a criminal justice one. The nomination of Botticelli, a recovering alcoholic, might be the most significant concrete sign of that shift to date.
The federal budget on drug policy is mixed. Since 2003, it has grown from roughly $17 billion to $25 billion annually. A shift from a criminal justice to a public health focus would mean a shift from supply reduction to demand reduction. The budget numbers show there hasn’t been much change on that front in the past 10 years. In 2003, treatment and prevention accounted for 42 percent of the budget. In 2014, they made up 40 percent of it. This is vexing to reform advocates like Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority, who says “actual drug control spending continues to emphasize failed policies of arrests, punishment and interdiction over effective strategies like treatment and prevention. It’s time for ONDCP to walk the walk, and not just talk the talk.”