From a program segment labeled “Obama’s Drug Czar says that America’s Drug War Has Failed” this morning on Fox and Friends, we learn that “Even he says the war on drugs is being fought all wrong.” Intones the host, “Michael Botticelli, you say the war on drugs has failed. Why?”
Botticelli’s response is that the problem is our “overreliance on punitive approaches,” as evidenced by the fact that federal prisons incarcerate “people with addiction [which] really does little to protect the public or help people who need good, compassionate care.”
This claim is highly misleading, and the official charged with setting the nation’s drug strategy should know better. As the government’s own experts from the Department of Justice have clearly demonstrated, 99.5 percent of those incarcerated in federal prison for drug crimes are there for significant drug trafficking offenses.
Whatever the merits of “good, compassionate care” for transnational criminal drug traffickers, a “punitive” approach can, indeed, protect the public, just as, conversely, Administration plans for early release of those same convicted felons will endanger that public.
Botticelli further argues that the current heroin overdose crisis “really started with the vast over-prescribing of prescription drugs.” This is certainly the preferred narrative of the Obama Administration.
The stance has an element of truth, but researchers from both the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Centers for Disease Control point to a cause that the Administration prefers to ignore; surging illicit heroin production from Mexico. Again, why are the government’s own disease experts being ignored?
Their realization is urgently needed, since the stark upturn in overdose deaths dates from 2010, on this Administration’s watch. Botticelli calls for “mandatory prescriber education,” but this will not solve the hurtling epidemic of deaths from the heroin supply, now at unprecedented levels on U.S. streets. We cannot stem the tide of overdose deaths, still rapidly climbing, until we face the reality of the causes at our border and stop them.
Finally, there is something perplexing to hear that the war on drugs has failed, and “is being fought all wrong.” These words were proclaimed nearly eight years ago when the Obama Administration took the helm in setting the nation’s drug policy.
To hear that exact litany, spoken as an indictment of drug policy by the very official entrusted with devising and implementing it lo, these several years later, is oddly self-referential. Beyond allowing uncontested legal marijuana spreading across the nation, what have they been doing?
When Nancy Reagan offered leadership, the drug problem declined. Botticelli and Obama now want to plead impotence to excuse their failure and irresponsibility.