Anti-Drug Border Enforcement Suffers as Congress Spends Money on TV Ads

Congress will be considering this month a number of appropriations bills — deciding how to spend the trillions of dollars hard-working Americans send them each year (lest they be incarcerated by the Internal Revenue Service). As Congress decides how to spend money on law-enforcement activities, they would do well to end waste, fraud and abuse in drug-policy spending and make sure that federal drug-policy resources focus primarily on federal responsibilities.

Congress should start by taking up the recommendations of the conservative Republican Study Committee for Katrina-relief spending offsets. Many of those proposed offsets were cuts of drug-policy spending, which is not producing sufficient results considering the billions of tax dollars spent. But that’s just the beginning of possible savings in the $60 billion State-Science-Justice-Commerce spending bill up this week.

One common-sense cut recommended by the RSC is the elimination of the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s media campaign. You may recall this infamous campaign for the patronizing, cloying, multimillion-dollar ad buy during the Super Bowl, which tried to equate marijuana use with terrorism. In 1996, no less a personage than the current ONDCP "drug czar" John Walters wrote for the Heritage Foundation that, "Teaching children that drug use is wrong and harmful is primarily the responsibility of parents and local communities, youth organizations, religious institutions, schools and police. Federal funding is neither necessary nor sufficient for conveying this lesson by word and deed. … Parents, teachers, and communities should not leave to the federal government a responsibility that really belongs to them." Ten years later, Walters’ words ring truer than ever as federal budget deficits climb ever-higher.
That’s not the only tax money being wasted.  The Drug Enforcement Agency wastes much of its resources interfering with Food and Drug Administration approvals of even privately financed scientific research into marijuana, a practice condemned by small-government watchdogs such as Americans for Tax Reform. And even more tax dollars have been poured into harassing pain doctors who prescribe legal drugs in adequate measure for chronic pain patients. That outrageous abuse of power has been decried by everyone from the conservative doctors of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons to the bipartisan chief law enforcement officers of the National Association of Attorneys General.

In recent years 11 states have enacted laws allowing people to use marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. The federal government has responded by diverting resources away from investigating violent international drug cartels to conducting military-style raids on state-sanctioned medical marijuana clinics. Peaceful chemotherapy patients have found themselves under the gunpoint of the militarized federal police. While federal marijuana law contains no medical exception, federal law enforcement agencies — and the congressmen who give them taxpayers’ money — do have the authority to prioritize resources. Federal agencies should focus federal resources on federal responsibilities.

FDA bureaucrats, cancer patients and medical doctors are not "national security" problems requiring a militarized federal response. DEA resources should be allocated to more pressing matters, away from regulating medicine and toward fulfilling clear and present federal responsibilities. DEA agents should be on the border, interdicting international drug shipments and arresting and detaining members of violent international drug gangs such as MS-13. Based in El Salvador, MS-13’s reign of terror has expanded all the way to the leafy Washington, D.C., suburbs of Northern Virginia and, reportedly, is currently encroaching on the ruined streets of New Orleans.

Paramilitary narcoterrorist cartels are operating on the U.S.-Mexico border. The No. 1 source of methamphetamine in America is Mexico, with 65% of meth originating from across our borders. Yet Congress has remained blithely stubborn, appropriating pork for local law enforcement and insisting that that overworked DEA agents lock up Americans who are politically incorrect enough to combat their chemo-nausea under state rather than federal laws.

Using the power of the purse, Congress can now show it is serious about dismantling these criminal international drug syndicates and shutting down our borders to these narcoterrorist cartels. These problems are clear areas of federal jurisdiction.

With congressmen decrying the border situation even as border-security legislation is likely to be tied up through the end of this Congress, the House and Senate can use the appropriations process to prove their sincerity by allocating limited federal resources in a reasonable manner. The common-sense positions outlined above are well-grounded in conservative legal, medical, and public-policy communities. Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress should consider these points as the budget process moves forward.