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Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy
Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs
Volume 3 - Public Policy Options

Chapter 20 - Public Policy In Other Countries - US

The United States[1][208]


A proper description of the illegal drug policies, and even more so of drug practices, in the United States would in itself be long enough to fill a single report. Consider this: the research budget of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) alone amounts to US $1 billion, approximately 80 per cent of funding allocated to illicit drug research worldwide; the budget of the Office for National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is more than US $18 billion, compared to that of the Canadian Drug Strategy, which is CDN $16 million, approximately one-half of one per cent of the US office's budget; and total expenses relating to illegal drugs are approximately US $35 billion. Furthermore, given the complexity of the American political system and the diversity of its population, one can only imagine the difficulty of accurately representing US drug policies.

What is more, the United States and illegal drugs are inextricably intertwined. As seen in the last chapter, the USA has played and continues to play a preponderant role in the negotiation and enforcement of international drug conventions. To think of drugs where the United States is involved is automatically to think of the "war on drugs" and the legions of statistics on incarceration, harsh sentences and the enormous economic and social costs that result therefrom.

In this section, we can only scratch the surface of this complex issue. Fortunately, in previous chapters, we have discussed various figures on the United States, use rates in Chapter 6 and research into effects in Chapter 7, for example. Our task was made even more difficult by the fact that we were unable to hear government representatives at the public hearings. In our single day of hearings in the United States, we heard from the Governor of New Mexico, Mr. Gary Johnson, and Mr. Ethan Nadelman of the Lindesmith Centre-Drug Policy Foundation. It was not until June 10 of this year that we were able to have a private meeting with Dr. Hanson, the director of NIDA and, on June 11, an in camera session with Mr. Walters, the director of the ONDCP.


[1][208]  This section draws to a large degree on the report prepared for the Committee by the Library of Parliament: B. Dolin, National Drug Policy: United States. Ottawa: Library of Parliament, 2002, report prepared for the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs, available online at www.parl.gc.ca/illegaldrugs.asp.

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