President Obama's proposed budget for fiscal year 2012 requests that Congress allot more funds for drug treatment and prevention programs, said Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The proposal would put forth $10 billion to reduce the consumption of drugs in the United States. This includes $9 billion for rehabilitation treatment for drug abusers—a $98.7 million increase from 2010.
“The use of drugs in the United States drives crime, violence, addiction, and instability throughout our nation and this hemisphere,” said Kerlikowske. “Being one of the nations with the highest rates of rug use, we recognize that we have a responsibility to reduce the demand of drugs here in order to protect the health and security of our citizens, and to support the valiant work of President Calderón and our international partners in their grand efforts to combat transnational criminal organizations.”
In a town hall discussion in the state of Kentucky, Kerlikowske signaled that the Obama administration strives to take a rehabilitative approach to drug abuse in America. If policies come to reflect the rhetoric, this would constitute a significant policy shift from previous administrations.
"We have been calling it a war on drugs for many years, and we must stop. Calling it a war connotes that this is a war on people. This is not a war on people,” Kerlikowske said in his opening remarks at the forum. “This is a complex discussion about a complex problem."
Despite decades of drug criminalization, demand for drugs in the United States has not dissipated significantly from year to year and has sustained a stable market for Mexico's drug cartels. Some proponents of rehabilitation believe that a stronger focus on treatment and prevention would be more effective in curbing Americans' drug use.
Nevertheless, some wonder if President Obama's push to curtail American drug demand reflects a failure to act sooner.
Although the President and members of his administration have acknowledged their “shared responsibility” in Mexico's drug war over the past two years, they have also “expressed disagreement over the severity of the threat to Mexico’s future stability,” alleges senior policy analyst Ray Walser.
“President Obama has occupied the White House for two years. During this time, an air of uncertainty and pessimism has hovered over U.S.–Mexican relations. The Obama Administration should do more than simply listen sympathetically while Mexico disintegrates,” Walser wrote in an article published by the Heritage Foundation's website.
The Politics of Policy
The proposed increase in funds for rehabilitative drug programs also come at a time when Congressional House Republicans have voted to slash border security spending by $272 million, making Mexico's drug war an even more dire issue for the United States.
Intelligence expert Fred Burton, a vice president for global intelligence firm STRATFOR, says coordination among the U.S. and Mexico, as well as additional funding for the Department of Homeland Security, could play a key role in curbing the drug cartels. But he said he believes politics will prevent it from happening.
"Well unfortunately I have come to the conclusion that there is no solution. We don't have the political will to address the situation for a host of reasons," he lamented.
President Obama will hold a meeting with President Calderón later today, where Mexico's drug war will be the top priority on their agenda.