President Obama on May 11 outlined a broad initiative to reduce drug abuse in the U.S. over five years which focuses on treating the problem as a public health issue rather than a criminal-justice problem.
The National Drug Control Strategy, developed by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, addresses drug prevention, treatment, enforcement, and international cooperation, Obama said.
“By boosting community-based prevention, expanding treatment, strengthening law enforcement, and working collaboratively with our global partners, we will reduce drug use and the great damage it causes in our communities,” Obama said in a statement. “I am confident that when we take the steps outlined in this strategy, we will make our country stronger and our people healthier and safer.”
By 2015, the plan is expected to reduce by 15 percent the rate of youth drug use and the number of chronic drug users, as well as reduce the incidence of drug-induced deaths and reduce by 10 percent the prevalence of drugged driving and drug use among young adults. Prescription drug abuse, drugged driving, and preventing drug use are the top three drug-related problems in the country.
National Drug Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske led a nationwide listening tour to receive input for the strategy and also met with police, medical professionals, drug treatment providers, elected officials, corrections officials, academics and others.
“In following President Obama’s charge to seek a broad range of input in the strategy, I gained a renewed appreciation of how deeply concerned Americans are about drug use,” Kerlikowske said in a statement. “It touches virtually all of us, whether we know a family member, a friend, or a colleague who suffers from addiction or is in recovery, a police officer working to protect the community, or a parent striving to keep a child drug free.”
Jay Rorty, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Drug Law Reform Project, gave credit to the Obama administration for moving away from “failed and unconstitutional” drug enforcement policies, but said he wants to ensure that drug importers, rather than smaller domestic dealers, are the main targets of law enforcement efforts.
“Attempting to reduce demand by continuing to focus on the search, arrest and conviction of street sellers rather than importers will further erode the Fourth Amendment, exacerbate the crippling financial effects of our nation’s addiction to mass incarceration and is no substitute for an effective public health-based strategy that promotes public safety while preserving communities’ constitutional rights,” Rorty said in a statement released by the ACLU.