For the first time since the inception of the drug war in the 1980s, the federal government would spend more money on treatment and research than on law enforcement and interdiction efforts under President Obama’s proposed budget released Tuesday.
In drug policy parlance, the budget proposal focuses more on “demand reduction” instead of “supply reduction.” Demand reduction includes measures aimed at keeping people from using drugs — prevention and education programs, as well as treatment programs and research into drug use and its effects.
Supply reduction includes most of what we think of as the drug war– drug raids, efforts to combat Mexican cartels, and arresting and locking up drug users and sellers.
Experts have generally agreed for some time that it’s more effective to treat drug use as a public health issue emphasizing demand reduction, rather than a criminal justice one that prioritizes supply reduction. One big reason for this is that as authorities poured billions of dollars into supply reduction efforts in the 1980s and ’90s, many illicit drugs became cheaper and easier to get and overall rates of drug dependency stayed the same.