The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is a component of the Executive Office of the President (EOP) responsible for running the federal government’s anti-drug programs. The ONDCP is lead by the “Drug Czar,” a White House position created by President Ronald Reagan as part of his “Just Say No” policy designed to reduce the use of illegal drugs by Americans. The agency seeks to reduce illicit drug use, manufacturing and trafficking, drug-related crime and violence, and drug-related health consequences. The agency’s National Drug Control Strategy directs the national anti-drug effort, establishing programs, funding and guidelines to assist federal, state, and local government drug enforcement entities. In recent years, the office has come under fire over how it spends its multi-billion-dollar budget and whether federal anti-drug policies are actually effective.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) was created by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. The new law required that employers contracting with the federal government in any way meet certain requirements for providing a “drug-free workplace.” These included: making a good faith effort to maintain a drug-free workplace; publishing a drug abuse policy statement; distributing to each employee a written copy of the drug abuse policy statement; notifying the granting or contracting federal agency within 10 days of receiving a conviction notice from an employee; imposing sanctions (up to and including employment termination) or requiring convicted employees to participate in a drug abuse assistance or rehabilitation program; and establishing a drug-free awareness program to educate employees on the dangers of drug abuse, available drug counseling and other programs, and the drug abuse policy.
Beginning in March 1989, ONDCP certification of grantees or contractors became a precondition for receiving a federal grant or contract. Penalties for failure to comply with the new law included suspension of federal payments for an undisclosed period, termination of a federal grant or contract or suspension or disbarment of the grantee or contractor from receiving another grant or contract for a period of up to five years.
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (pdf) extended the ONDCP’s mission to assessing budgets and resources related to the National Drug Control Strategy. It also established specific reporting requirements in the areas of drug use, availability, consequences, and treatment.
Executive Order 12880 (1993) and Executive Orders 12992 and 13023 (1996) assigned ONDCP responsibility within the executive branch of government for leading drug-control policy and developing an outcome-measurement system. The executive orders also chartered the President’s Drug Policy Council and established the ONDCP director as the President’s chief spokesman for drug control.
The Drug Free Communities Act of 1997 authorized the ONDCP to carry out a national initiative that awards federal grants directly to community coalitions in the United States. Such coalitions are supposed to reduce substance abuse among adolescents, strengthen collaboration among organizations and agencies in both the private and public sectors, and serve as catalysts for increased citizen participation in strategic planning to reduce drug use over time.
The Media Campaign Act of 1998 directed the ONDCP to conduct a national media campaign for the purpose of reducing and preventing drug abuse among young people in the United States.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 1998 expanded ONDCP’s mandate and authority. It set forth additional reporting requirements and expectations, including: Development of a long-term national drug strategy; implementation of a “robust” performance-measurement system; commitment to a five-year national drug-control program budget; permanent authority granted to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program along with improvements in HIDTA management; greater demand-reduction responsibilities given to the Counter-Drug Technology Assessment Center (CTAC); statutory authority for the President’s Council on Counter-Narcotics; increased reporting to Congress on drug-control activities; reorganization of ONDCP to make it more effective; improved coordination among national drug control program agencies; and establishment of a Parents’ Advisory Council on Drug Abuse.
Executive Order 13165 (2000) (pdf) created the White House Task Force on Drug Use in Sports and authorized the ONDCP director to serve as the U.S. government’s representative on the Board of the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA).
By 2002 many members of Congress had grown frustrated with a perceived lack of results by ONDCP to curb the drug problem in America. Consequently, the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended that salaries and expenses at the agency be reduced from $26.6 million to $11.5 million. The committee also requested a study by the Government Accountability Office to study the distribution of agency grants and required the agency’s director to provide quarterly updates on travel, expenditures, staffing, and hiring.
According to a 2002 study by a non-partisan research firm hired by the ONDCP, teenagers exposed to federal anti-drug ads were no less likely to use drugs as a result of having viewed them, and some young girls said they were even more likely to give drugs a try. In 2005, the same research company reported that the government's ad campaign against marijuana use did not work. However, the agency continued with the ad campaign after the report was received, spending more than $220 million in 2005 and 2006.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 2006 reauthorized the ONDCP through FY 2010, contained several reporting requirements, and expanded the mandate of the agency. Some of the changes included creating the position of the U.S. Interdiction Coordinator and the Interdiction Committee (comprised of agency partners who review the National Interdiction Command and Control Plan) within ONDCP, moving it from the Department of Homeland Security; adding faith-based organizations and tribal officials to the National Drug Control Strategy consultation list; requiring the establishment of an HIDTA designation petition process so that local law enforcement agencies can petition to receive an HIDTA designation; granting statutory authority to the Counterdrug Technology Transfer Program, which transfers technology and training directly to state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies; authorizing the ONDCP director to emphasize the prevention of youth marijuana use in campaign advertisements and requiring the director to expend at least 10% of appropriated funds on advertisements to reduce the use of methamphetamine; reauthorizing the Drug Free Communities Support Program through FY 2012 and increasing the maximum annual grant award amount to $125,000; and establishing within the Justice Department a National Methamphetamine Information Clearinghouse.
In 2006, the ONDCP released the results of a survey of 67,500 people that found that 8.1% of respondents had used an illegal drug within the previous 30 days. This equated to 19.7 million people nationwide, aged 12 years and older, and an increase from 2004. But drug use among the young decreased for the third year in a row, according to the study, declining from 19.4 to 14.8% among middle and high school students between 2001 and 2007.
According to the University of Michigan’s annual Monitoring the Future (pdf) report (released in February 2011), there was an increase in the overall use of drugs by young people in the U.S. in 2010. While the report states that the data is complex and difficult to describe, it cites increases in the use of tobacco, marijuana, heroin, and prescription drugs; and varying levels of decrease in the use of alcohol, cocaine, and methamphetamine.
The ONDCP relies on a number of studies and surveys for its research, including the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, and the Drug Abuse Warning Network. The September 2011 ONDCP release of the 2010 NSDUH report (pdf) cites no statistical increase, from 2009 to 2010, in any past-month illicit drug use category for any age group. It also states that 22.6 million Americans (8.9%) aged 12 or older were current users of illicit drugs.
Part of the Executive Office of the President, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) oversees the nation’s anti-drug program. The goals of the program are to reduce illegal drug use (pdf), manufacturing and trafficking, as well as drug-related crime and violence and drug-related health consequences. The ONDCP director (aka “the Drug Czar”) is responsible for creating the National Drug Control Strategy, which directs the nation’s anti-drug efforts and establishes a program, budget and guidelines for cooperation among federal, state, and local law enforcement.
ONDCP’s director oversees the international and domestic anti-drug efforts of executive branch agencies. The director is supposed to make sure these efforts sustain and complement state and local anti-drug activities. The director also advises the President on changes in the organization, as well as management, budgeting, and personnel of federal agencies that would affect the nation’s anti-drug efforts and compliance with these efforts.
As part of its prevention efforts, the ONDCP operates several programs. Drug Free Communities (DFC) has, since its inception in 1997, supported more than 2,000 drug-free community coalitions across the United States. As a cornerstone of ONDCP’s National Drug Control Strategy, DFC provides the funding necessary for communities to identify and respond to local substance use problems. Random Student Drug Testing is considered a “powerful public health tool” by the ONDCP that discourages students from using dangerous, addictive drugs, and confidentially identifies those who may need help or drug treatment. The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign is a multi-dimensional effort to sway youth from using drugs. The campaign uses a variety of media to reach parents and youth, including TV ads, educational materials, Web sites, and publications. The ONDCP released a report (pdf) on the Campaign’s activities and status in FY 2010. Other prevention programs include the Obama administration’s Community Based Prevention initiative and the 2011 Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan (pdf).
As part of its treatment efforts, the agency funds Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral, and Treatment (SBIRT) programs that rely on the health care system to help diagnose and treat drug abuse before it becomes a more serious problem. Another program is Access to Recovery (ATR), which provides vouchers for treatment services as well as recovery support services. The program’s expanded treatment options include faith- and community-based providers. In 2010, $15.2 million in ATR grants were awarded, over a five-year period, to five Native American organizations.
The ONDCP sponsors programs specifically designed to disrupt the flow or sale of illegal drugs. High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) provides agencies with coordination, equipment, technology, and other resources to combat drug trafficking in key parts of the country. The Counterdrug Technology Assessment Center (CTAC) serves as the central counterdrug enforcement research and development center for the federal government.
Drug Endangered Children programs coordinate the efforts of law enforcement, medical services, and child welfare workers to ensure that children found in these environments receive appropriate attention and care. The 2006 Fentanyl-Laced Heroin Demand Reduction Forum brought together law enforcement and public health officials, prevention specialists, and treatment providers from federal, state, and local governments to discuss the public health threat and response techniques arising from deaths related to fentanyl-laced heroin, a powerful synthetic drug that is 80 to 100 times more powerful than morphine and can kill humans in small doses.
From the Web Site of the Office of National Drug Control Policy
The ONDCP FY 2013 Funding Highlights provides the following outline of expected distribution of funds for that year:
Domestic Law Enforcement $9,418,900,000
The FY 2013 Congressional Budget Submission for the Executive Office of the President (pdf) provides the following ONDCP program funding breakdown:
High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas $200,000,000
Other Federal Drug Control Programs $118,600,000
Salaries & Expenses $23,413,000
Expected FY 2013 expenditures for ONDCP salaries and expenses are as follows:
Personnel Compensation & Benefits $15,745,000
Other Contractual Services $3,320,000
Rental Payments to GSA $3,235,000
Travel & Transportation of Persons $500,000
Communication, Utilities & Misc. Charges $267,000
Supplies and Materials $240,000
Transportation of Things $18,000
Official Entertainment $10,000
No information regarding contracts that the ONDCP has issued is available on USAspending.gov. However, the agency does contract with private companies and public organizations and universities.
In December 2009, ICF Consulting LLC (now ICF International) was awarded a five-year contract with the ONDCP to assist with conducting a national evaluation of the Drug Free Communities Support Program. The contract is valued at $7 million.
In August 2003, the University of Texas at Austin received a $4.5 million grant from the Office of National Drug Control Policy to obtain and operate a functional MRI machine to study how the brain is affected by drug and alcohol abuse. Substance abuse researchers tried to reveal the brain processes that result in addiction, and what can be done to mitigate or reverse this.
In July 2006, a report (pdf) for Congress revealed that the Advertising Council had been hired by ONDCP to run its National Media Match Program, which garnered $447 million in pro bono TV and radio time for public service announcements. The ONDCP started to give credit to television networks whose programs contained anti-drug storylines. The networks could then reclaim the credited time it owed to the government and resell it to commercial advertisers. The networks earned additional millions by selling this airtime, which would normally have been donated for anti-drug messages.
In October 2002, the Roskamp Institute and James A. Haley VA Hospital team was awarded a contract from ONDCP’s Counterdrug Technology Assessment Center. Their research is designed to determine the feasibility of genetic typing of drug abusers, and those at risk of drug abuse. The group received $5.85 million to study all 30,000 genes and their protein products simultaneously over the course of five years.
A July 2002 USA Today article reported that the Office of National Drug Control Policy had awarded its $152 million anti-drug ad contract to Ogilvy & Mather, surprising many rival bidders. Earlier that year, Ogilvy & Mather had agreed to a $1.8 million settlement on claims that it had overcharged the drug office for ad work under the last contract. The new contract was a one-year deal, with four years of renewable options, worth $762.1 million over five years. Approximately $130 million was allocated for media planning and buying, while the rest was spent on designing ads.
Baseball Battle between ONDCP Staffers and Reformers
The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) won’t play ball, literally. For years now, a softball team comprised of drug reformers working in Washington D.C. have tried unsuccessfully to arrange a game with the ONDCP, which once again backed out of the contest.
The drug reformers, known as the One Hitters, said the ONDCP claimed a scheduling conflict prevented them from showing up in May 2011.
“This is not the first time the Czardinals have refused to play the One Hitters,” the One Hitters said in a press release. “In 6 years, the team found one reason or another to avoid taking the field against this team of individuals dedicated to reforming the out-of-date and ineffectual policies promoted by the ONDCP.”
The jilted team believes the ONDCP’s behavior “is being mimicked on the national stage” by saying it intends to change the national drug control policy to one that is more treatment and prevention oriented, while taking little action in this new direction.
Drug Czar's Office Backs Out of Another Congressional Softball Game with Drug Law Reformers (by Mike Riggs, Reason)
It’s Just a Softball Game …vs. the Drug Czar’s Team (by Stacia Cosner, Students for Sensible Drug Policy)
ONDCP’s Shifting Policy on Medical Marijuana
Shortly after taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama and his administration took a more lenient policy toward medical marijuana, much to the delight of advocates.
Two months after Obama was sworn in, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that federal agents would target marijuana distributors only when they violate both federal and state law. This meant the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) would back off on raiding medical marijuana dispensaries.
A few months later, the head of the (ONDCP), Gil Kerlikowske, surprised many with his remarks in which he said marijuana has no medicinal benefits. His comments created an uproar among Obama supporters, forcing Kerlikowske to backtrack. He stated: “The FDA has not determined that smoked marijuana has a value, and this is clearly a medical question and that’s where I’ve been leaving it.”
In 2011, the ONDCP again shifted its position. Within days of the DEA claiming no medical value to marijuana, the Drug Czar’s office released a report that stated there may actually be “some” medical value to “individual components of the cannabis plant” after all.
White House Admits Marijuana Has ‘Some’ Medical Value (by Stephen Webster, The Raw Story)
DEA To Halt Medical Marijuana Raids (by M. Alex Johnson, MSNBC)
Attorney General Signals Shift In Medical Marijuana Policy (by Devlin Barrett, Associated Press)
Drug Prevention and Treatment Instead of Legal Crackdowns
After four decades and $1 trillion, the U.S. government’s anti-drug program needed a new approach, according to President Barack Obama’s ONDCP.
In May 2010, the White House and the ONDCP announced a shift in national drug policy that would focus more on the problem as a public health issue and devote more resources into prevention and treatment.
The old policy of cracking down on drug suppliers and sellers wasn’t yielding enough progress, the agency reported, citing the fact that about 330 tons of cocaine, 20 tons of heroin, and 110 tons of methamphetamine and even more marijuana are sold in the U.S. annually.
Instead of directing time, energy, and resources into law enforcement, the new drug control strategy sought to bolster community-based anti-drug programs, encourage health care providers to screen for drug problems before addiction sets in and expand treatment beyond specialty centers to mainstream health care facilities.
ONDCP established a goal of reducing the rate of drug use among youths by 15% over the next five years. It also intended to reduce chronic drug use, drug abuse deaths, and drug-related driving by similar amounts.
“This strategy recognizes that the most promising drug policy is one that prevents drug use in the first place,” said Gil Kerlikowske, ONDCP’s director. “We have many proven methods for reducing the demand for drugs. The demand can be decreased with comprehensive, evidence-based prevention programs focused on adolescence, which science confirms is the peak period for drug-use initiation and the potential for addiction.”
Statement from ONDCP Director R. Gil Kerlikowske (Office of National Drug Control Policy)
Shift in National Drug Policy Announced (Drug Addiction Treatment)
Drug Czar Sends Mixed Messages On Marijuana Policy (by Steve Elliott, Toke of the Town)
Bummer (by Jacob Sullum, Reason.com)
U.S. Drug War Has Met None of Its Goals (by Martha Mendoza, Associated Press)
ONDCP Digs in Against Pot Legalization, Despite Barney Frank and Ron Paul Bill
In the face of bipartisan legislation and several petitions calling for the legalization of marijuana, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy continued to insist in 2011 that such a move would be bad for the nation.
Two unlikely bedfellows in Congress, Democrat Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Republican Ron Paul of Texas, jointly authored a bill that would decriminalize marijuana.
“Criminally prosecuting adults for making the choice to smoke marijuana is a waste of law enforcement resources and an intrusion on personal freedom,” Frank said in a statement.
Frank added: “I do not advocate urging people to smoke marijuana, neither do I urge them to drink alcoholic beverages or smoke tobacco, but in none of these cases do I think prohibition enforced by criminal sanctions is good public policy.”
That same year advocates submitted petitions to the White House urging President Barack Obama to get behind the effort to legalize marijuana.
But Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske made it clear the administration had intentions of change its stance.
“Our concern about marijuana is based on what the science tells us about the drug’s effects,” Kerlikowske said, noting its association with “addiction, respiratory disease, and cognitive impairment.”
“Simply put, it is not a benign drug,” Kerlikowske said. “As a former police chief, I recognize we are not going to arrest our way out of the problem…. We also recognize 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.”
White House Rebuffs Marijuana Legalization Petitions (by Phillip Smith, StopTheDrugWar.org)
Why Marijuana Legalization Would Compromise Public Health and Public Safety (Gil Kerlikowske, ONDCP)
ONDCP Budget Creates Controversy with Congress
Although Congress has repeatedly asked the ONDCP for greater transparency, it released an unclear and confusing budget in February 2008. The agency requested $14.1 billion for drug control efforts, a 3.4% increase. Two-thirds are earmarked for law enforcement, interdiction and programs to destroy drug crops abroad, while one third would fund treatment and prevention efforts. Some lawmakers have complained that the agency has not provided the whole picture and asked the agency to comply with a new way of reporting, which it has not done.
Drug Office's Budget Tactics Faulted (by Christopher Lee, Washington Post)
Salon Blogger Calls Drug Czar on the Carpet for Lying
A blog entry, written by Pete Guither and published on Salon.com in 2008, called out the ONDCP’s “Drug Czar,” claiming the position is required by law to lie about drugs. Since the director is bound by law to oppose legalization of any substance on Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act, he or she must oppose the issue of medical marijuana, which has been found to have “currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States” or “accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision” by extensive research. (Even the federal government supplies it to patients.) So, Guither concluded, the Drug Czar is required by law to lie about the facts.
On April 2, 2003, Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) wrote a letter to the General Accounting Office asking for an investigation into ONDCP lobbying activities and its dissemination of “misleading information.” The blog entry also pointed out that the agency’s director was required by law to claim that the anti-drug programs were working, despite evidence to the contrary.
The Drug Czar is required by law to lie (by Pete Guither, Drug WarRant)
ONDCP Scolded by GAO for Fake News Ads Before Super Bowl
In January 2005, The Washington Post reported that a story aired before the Super Bowl on numerous local news stations was created by the government’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, not a journalist. The investigative arm of the Congress scolded the Bush administration for distributing phony news after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed that this practice amounted to illegal “covert propaganda.” The GAO also objected to the use of taxpayer money to produce these ads. Seven of the ads were produced and shown on 770 stations. At least 300 news shows used some or all of the materials for stories or sound bites.
Drug Control Office Faulted For Issuing Fake News Tapes (by Ceci Connolly, Washington Post)
The Persistence Of Folly: ONDCP’s Anti Drug Campaign (Common Sense for Drug Policy)
Edward H. Jurith (Interim Director) (January 20, 2009 – May 6, 2009)
John P. Walters (December 7, 2001 – January 19, 2009)
Barry McCaffrey (February 29, 1996 – January 4, 2001)
Lee P. Brown (January 1993 – December 12, 1995)
Bob Martinez (March 28, 1991 – January 20, 1993)
William Bennett (1989 – 1991)
Should marijuana for medical purposes be legalized?
Even though 17 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, the debate continues over whether other states and the federal government should go down this same road.
Proponents for the legal use of medical marijuana say marijuana has become an acceptable and effective form of medical treatment in the U.S. They argue it’s time for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve marijuana use for health reasons because the evidence exists that it is a safe and effective treatment for dozens of conditions, including cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, pain, migraines, glaucoma, and epilepsy. Legalization also would prevent thousands of deaths annually from unsafe use of legal prescription drugs. Many doctors side with medical marijuana advocates, noting how the drug can relieve certain types of pain, nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms.
Marijuana Legalization (Office of National Drug Control Policy)
Medical Marijuana - Should Marijuana Be a Medical Option? (Neighborhood Link)
Opponents argue that marijuana has not and should not be approved by the FDA because it is too dangerous to use, and that various FDA-approved drugs make the use of marijuana unnecessary. Marijuana is addictive and can lead to more dangerous illegal drugs, they claim. Opponents also say medical marijuana is a front for drug legalization, and that people who claim medical use are actually using it for recreational pleasure. Not all physicians endorse medical marijuana. Former U.S. Senator Bill Frist (R-Tennessee), who is also a doctor, said marijuana is a “dangerous drug and that there are less dangerous medicines offering the same relief from pain and other medical symptoms.”
More Research Needed Before Marijuana Is Safe (by Kevin Sabet, U.S. News & World Report)
Marijuana Legalization: A Bad Idea (Office of National Drug Control Policy)
President Obama’s nominee to be the nation’s new “drug czar,” Robert Gil Kerlikowske, was confrimed on May 7, 2009. Kerlikowske has spent nearly 30 years in law enforcement, including a stint as a narcotics officer and eight years as Seattle’s police chief, during which he downplayed the importance of arresting individuals for marijuana possession.