While there seems to be some growing recognition that the war on drugs is criminally wasteful and counterproductive, with more states legalizing marijuana either for recreational purposes and/or medicinal purposes, clearly we still have a long way to go before we approach a reasonable and fiscally responsible state of affairs. The federal government has taken some limited steps to reign in the massive war on drugs. For example, the federal sentencing guidelines did partially rectify the extreme disparity between prison guideline sentences for crack cocaine cases versus powder cocaine cases. The federal government also does not appear to be interfering when states legalize marijuana, at least not as often as it did before.
However, much of the rhetoric from the federal government about the ineffective war on drugs and tremendous amount of money wasted on it is just that- rhetoric. President Obama recently released his proposed budget for fiscal year 2016, according to a recent article. Unfortunately, more and more money is being allocated to the war on drugs and the federal prison system. The budget proposes $3.7 billion for the Bureau of Prisons (an increase of $187 million), $2.46 billion for the Drug Enforcement Agency (an increase of $90 million) and $293 million for the Office of Justice Programs (an increase of $50 million). That last allocation is a significant 20% increase that goes towards drug tasks forces that are specifically designed to perpetuate the war on drugs and feed the bloated and expensive prison system.
Of course, as the article notes, this is just a proposed budget. Congress can make all sorts of changes to it. These war on drug expenditures can get better or, more likely, worse. In any case, it is hard to take the federal government seriously when it negatively mentions the war on drugs and then proposes hundreds of millions of dollars in increases to make more drug cases. In this case, as usual, money talks.