Is the President’s new drug policy just more of the same?

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The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy’s new Drug Control Strategy for 2012 recommends roughly equal spending on treatment and punishment.

It allocated $10.1 billion on prevention and treatment; $9.4 billion on law enforcement and incarceration; $3.6 billion on drug interdiction; and $2.1 billion on international programs.

Meghan Ralston of Drug Policy Alliance, a national organization advocating marijuana legalization and de-criminalization of other lesser drugs and amounts, was underwhelmed. “It’s essentially been the exact same allocation of funds, the exact same approach, since the days of Nixon. So it’s really just the same old, same old.”

Ralston thinks Gil Kerlikowske, the President’s drug czar and head of the ONDCP, and the Administration are trying to do the right thing, but they’re going about it from the wrong direction.

“The policies that are in place at the federal level, and the rhetoric that’s happening at a federal level, is really inconsistent and out of touch with what a lot of the American people want and what a lot of American people need and really the direction the rest of the country is headed.”

With polls showing overwhelming support for medical marijuana, Ralston said, there’s a big disconnect between federal policy and popular will.

Kerlikowske has been touring the country to tout the new strategy. He held a news conference at Los Angeles’ First African Methodist Episcopal Church, in the West Adams district, to highlight a portion of the community-based approaches the administration thinks may be more effective at the local level. The Drug Free Communities Support Program offers small grants to community groups that address youth substance abuse.

Standing in the church’s sunny garden, Kerlikowske said local faith organizations reach more people regularly than he could possibly reach himself. “These are the folks that touch people every single day.”

He also said the new strategy will take into account the rising scourge of prescription drug abuse. “It was just a few years ago that no one talked about the problem of prescription drugs. Now prescription drugs take more lives in this country than heroin and cocaine overdoses combined.”

Whether the new strategy will be any more effective in combatting this and other forms of drug abuse than prior attempts remains to be seen.

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Proposition 19 lacks funds, not buzz


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A recent poll by the Los Angeles Times and the University of Southern California shows that 51 percent of California voters oppose legalizing marijuana.

With just a week away from voting time, the Yes on 19 campaign says it is stepping up its efforts.

But both campaign sides have had little capital compared to other campaigns this election cycle. With less money, the campaign is focusing on reaching voters online instead of on televesion.

Recently, the campaign for legalizing marijuana just got a monetary push from investor George Soros. He donated $1 million to the Drug Policy Alliance.

Stephen Gutwillig is one of the alliance’s spokespersons. He declined to give details about Soros and the donation. He did say, however, that the alliance plans on using the money for voter mobilization and public education.

It is a little late in the game to film and televise advertisements. So far, there is only one pro-legalization marijuana advertisement done by the Yes on 19 campaign.

Tom Angell is the spokesperson for Yes on 19. He says the advertisement originally played in Los Angeles, but it recently expanded to Bakersfield, Fresno and Chico. The campaign also purchased a “predicted dialer.” That is a gadget that calls about five people at once, and when someone picks up the phone, it connects to a volunteer.

Their so-called “grassroots campaign” will be focusing more on communication though Facebook and blogs. They also signed up hundreds of volunteers to man the phones. Expect a phone call this week.