Obama's New Drug Control Report Calls for More Workplace Drug Testing, Nationwide Zero Tolerance Laws, Prescription-Only Ephedrine Products, and the Return of the "Above the Influence" Campaign


The first thing you should know about President Barack Obama's 2012 Drug Control Strategy report is that it begins and ends with the declaration that the war on drugs is working and will continue apace. 

Obama administration policies have "yielded significant results," according to the President's introductory letter, which concludes by saying, "While difficult budget decisions must be made at all levels of government, we must ensure continued support for policies and programs that reduce drug use and its enormous costs to American society."

The report ends with a familiar refrain: "Legalization of drugs will not be considered in this approach. Making drugs more available and more accessible will not reduce drug use and its adverse consequences for public health and safety. We will continue to educate young
people and all Americans about the science on the harmful health effects of marijuana use."

The pages in between those two statements contain a broad outline for increased drug enforcement, mandatory rehabilitation programs for people who don't need or want them, and the return of melodramatic Reefer Madness-style agitprop aimed at teenagers.

The worst policy plans contained in the report are outlined after the jump.

 – The report implicitly blames the debate over drug reform—one Obama recently told Univision he's more than willing to hear—for increased use of drugs by teens:

One possible influence on this observed trend in drug use and perception of risk is the decreased exposure of youth to prevention messages and the presence of messages and policies that downplay the consequences of drug use. While the Administration supports ongoing research into determining what components of the marijuana plant can be used as medicine, to date, neither the FDA nor the Institute of Medicine has found the marijuana plant itself to meet the modern standard for safe or effective medicine for any condition. The Administration also recognizes that legalizing marijuana would not provide the answer to any of the health, social, youth education, criminal justice, and community quality of life challenges associated with drug use.

—The report encourages carte blanche workplace drug testing, on the grounds that it will curtail productivity losses associated with drug use and improve users' lives. It also describes the Obama administration's attempt to develop on oral test for workplace drug testing:

In addition to the youth programs mentioned previously, as our young people enter the workplace and others remain engaged in workforce, it is important to ensure a drug-free workplace. The consequences of illicit drug use in America's workforce include job-related accidents and injuries, absenteeism, health care costs, and lost productivity.

Workplace programs that provide clear policies regarding drug use; offer prevention and education opportunities for employers and supervisors; conduct drug testing to detect and deter use; and support referral and treatment for those who have substance use disorders can play a large role in reducing the demand for drugs throughout our Nation and in helping drug users get into treatment.

These programs provide employees with the opportunity to self-identify and get help. Often, such programs give employees an opportunity to return to the same job, or a similar job in the same industry, thereby creating an incentive to succeed in their recovery and resume a fulfilling career. Consequently, drug-free workplace programs are beneficial for our labor force, employers, families, and communities in general.

In 2011, the Administration committed to funding for the scientific determination for oral fluids testing as a complement to urine testing.  HHS published a Federal Register notice requesting public comment on the scientific basis for oral fluid testing . HHS is moving forward to set standards for oral fluid testing that will be published in the future for public comment before they can be finalized in the Mandatory Guidelines for Drug Workplace Testing.  These Guidelines will also be available for state and local jurisdictions to apply as appropriate for the prosecution of drugged driving violations, and to encourage the drug testing industry to develop accurate point-of-collection oral fluid testing devices.

—The report contains a request to Congress for $20 million to Revamp and Reenergize the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, which was defunded by Congress last year because it doesn't work:

Since 2005, there has been a significant public investment in developing the widely-recognized "Above the Influence" (ATI) brand, a campaign that has been found by independent scientific analyses to be effective, relevant to youth, and instrumental to drug prevention efforts in communities across the country. Unfortunately, despite evidence of its effectiveness, Congress appropriated no funding for the Media Campaign in Fiscal Year (FY) 2012, and the campaign is now operating on a minimal budget composed of its unobligated balances as the Youth Drug Prevention Media Program.

The report also calls for a nationwide zero tolerance policy for "drugged driving," which would mean all drivers would be subjected to laws that currently affect only commercial drivers:

The Administration encourages states to pursue enhanced legal responses, such as per se (or "zero tolerance") laws. Seventeen states already have per se statutes, and additional states should consider adopting these standards. These same standards have been applied to 12 million commercial drivers in the United States for the past two decades. The Administration has developed educational packets for states, providing them with information on the dangers of drugged driving and why per se laws are beneficial.

—The report also says that "Several options are being considered to further reduce methamphetamine production including prescription-only status for pseudoephedrine/ephedrine products."

The Marijuana Policy Project's Rob Kampia has called the report "appalling," adding, "The drug czar is trying to resurrect those stupid TV ads, like the one where a teenager gets his fist stuck in his mouth. The budget intentionally undercounts the federal government's expenditures on incarcerating drug offenders, who comprise more than half of the federal prison population. And the budget dangerously proposes a massive escalation in using the military to fight drugs domestically. Congress should just ignore this budget and start from scratch. Specifically, Congress should not provide the Obama administration with any money to go after nonviolent marijuana users, growers, or distributors."

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition also attacked the report.

"President Obama keeps saying he is open to a discussion but he never seems willing to actually have that discussion," said LEAP Director Neil Franklin said in a press release. "Polls show that three out of four U.S. voters think the 'war on drugs' is a failure and a majority now support marijuana legalization. The time for real change is now, but at the Summit of the Americas President Obama announced more than $130 million in aid to fund the continued effort to arrest drug traffickers in Latin America. This prohibition strategy hasn't worked in the past and it cannot work in the future. Latin American leaders know it, and President Obama must know it. Let's stop the charade and begin to bring drugs under control through legalization."

Former ONDCP senior advisor Kevin Sabet, meanwhile, is doing promotion for the report, which he refers to as "Wake Up and Grow Up." In anticipating criticism of the report, Sabet writes, "The 2012 release is likely to be attacked by those who are waiting for the day the President will make a U-turn and support legalization—but attackers will unfortunately miss the nuance and striking clarity which characterizes this particular document and its connection with the first Strategy." Fun fact: Sabet wrote the first strategy! 

More Reason on Obama's drug policies, including investments in police violence, the myth that the president's policies are "compassionate" and Jacob Sullum's must-read feature on how Obama turned out to be just another drug warrior.