In April, the Office of National Drug Control Policy requested a $25.4 billion budget for 2014. The total budget would be divided as such: $10.7 billion allocated to prevention and treatment, $9.6 billion  for domestic law enforcement, $3.7 billion for interdiction, and the remaining $1.4 billion accounting for cooperation with international partners.
Click here to view the National Drug Control Budget.

Over 50% of funds for drug policy would address law enforcement and interdiction, demonstrating the divide between the Nixon Administration’s War on Drugs and the Obama Administration’s current approach. Under the Nixon Administration, the majority of funding for the War on Drugs went towards treatment and prevention, the only presidency to focus on treatment and prevention.

During his presidency, President Nixon was known as a “watchdog” when it came to battling illicit drug use. He oversaw the establishment of the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE) and signed into law Reorganization Plan No. 2 of 1973, establishing the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Paired with saving a faltering economy faced with incessant inflation, curtailing nationwide illicit drug use and trafficking during his presidency demanded equal if not the most attention in regard to domestic affairs. Despite the initial effectiveness of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, it was the goal of the Nixon administration to eventually eliminate drug dependency in America. The statistics involving drug abuse during the 1960s were confounding. In his Special Message to the Congress on Control of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, President Nixon scratches the surface of America’s problem:

“Between the years 1960 and 1967, juvenile arrests involving the use of drugs rose by almost 800 percent; half of those now being arrested for the illicit use of narcotics are under 21 years of age. New York City alone has records of some 40,000 heroin addicts, and the number rises between 7000 and 9000 a year. These official statistics are only the tip of an iceberg whose dimensions we can only surmise.” RN, Special Message to the Congress on Control of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs

To avoid the nation’s capitulation into a drug induced norm, President Nixon proposed aggressive tactics and wanted to employ these at all facets of federal, state, and local jurisdictions. President Nixon himself stated that “it has been a common oversimplification to consider narcotics addiction, or drug abuse, to be a law enforcement problem alone. Effective control of illicit drugs requires the cooperation of many agencies of the Federal and local and State governments; it is beyond the province of any one of them alone.”

Not only was drug abuse no longer a law enforcement problem, but a problem that belligerently breached the economic vitality of the common American man. Illicit drugs plagued society during the late 60s and President Nixon believed that this helped to hinder the nation’s progress towards prosperity. He proposed giving greater attention towards education and treatment of drug abusers over simple law enforcement tactics.

President Nixon clarified his intentions to expand assistance to drug users themselves. He believed that those who exploited the dependency and desperation of drug addicts, those who seeped every ounce of life out of their fellow men, ought to be arraigned on the worst possible offense to mankind.

“However far the addict himself may fall, his offenses against himself and society do not compare with the inhumanity of those who make a living exploiting the weakness and desperation of their fellow men. Society has few judgments too severe, few penalties too harsh for the men who make their livelihood in the narcotics traffic.” RN, Special Message to the Congress on Control of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs

This statement shows that President Nixon intended to impose harsh penalties on the drug pusher, not those whose weakness and desperation was being exploited.

Specific steps called for by President Nixon to attack illicit drug use and trafficking include:

-making these substances available by prescriptions only

-governmental supervision of all transactions from production to retail distribution

-licensing of all producers

-limiting trade to authorized persons

-prohibition of nonauthorized possession for distribution

-concentration on the “demand” side of the drug equation—the use and the user of drugs through a new priority placed on rehabilitation.

In light of the Obama administration’s federal mandate to ease overcrowding in federal prisons and the state of California’s looming deadline for reducing its overall prison population, political leaders seem intent on giving leniency to drug offenders while still maintaining a law- enforcement-heavy budget. Lawmakers have primarily directed their attention to eliminating sentences for minor drug infractions. Perhaps a stepping stone for a grander libertarian scheme, leniency still fails to address those who will at all costs seek demand in the illicit drug market. Political leaders should consider the Nixon administration’s hard-nosed efforts to stem drug abuse, if only to gain an understanding that there are those who will always exploit the weakness and desperation of their fellow men.