The Obama administration has released its proposed drug budget for fiscal year 2014.
While our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers were quick to note that the White House has made some slight concessions with regard to increasing funds available for treatment and decreasing enforcement spending, we question whether medical marijuana dispensaries and patients in California will see much of a difference.
Of course, that assumes the new budge will pass muster with Congress, which remains to be seen.
The budget proposal claims that the primary goal should be the prevention of illicit drug use and addiction, as well as prosecution of illegal trafficking and treatment for those who have become powerless to their addictions.
Yet the federal government has gone hard after the medical marijuana sector in California over the last several years, despite the fact that the drug is legal here for medicinal purposes and has been since 1996. Yet, federal prosecutors have spent an inordinate amount of taxpayer dollars to fund investigations, conduct elaborate raids, arrest, try and incarcerate dispensary owners, harass patients and enact forfeiture actions against dispensary landlords.
Nowhere in this budget - or in previous budgets for that matter - is there a section entitled, "California marijuana dispensary actions." So we really don't know whether enforcement is going to taper off or not.
What we can say is that the budget allows for 58 percent of the budget to spent on enforcement actions while 42 percent will be spent on prevention and treatment. The scales still aren't tipped in the way we would like them to be, especially considering the inequality of drug offense penalties as compared to other far more serious felony crimes, such as assault, rape and murder.
However, that percentage is a slight shift from what we saw the previous year. The fiscal year 2013 budget called for 62 percent of the budget to be spent on enforcement and just 38 percent spent on treatment.
The hope is that, at the very least, we would see an equal amount of funds spent on both sides. After all, if you can reduce addiction rates through prevention and treatment, you reduce the demand for the supply. It ends up costing less in the end, and as a nation we save ourselves at least some of the human casualties of this ongoing, failed war on drugs.
As it stands now, the administration is pledging some $195 million in federal drug enforcement action.
Clearly, there is much more work to be done. A spokesman for the Marijuana Majority advocacy group notes that the president has conceded that we are not going to be able to arrest our way out of America's drug problems. If that's true - and we believe it is - why is the bulk of our drug funding still going toward arresting people with drug problems?
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
National Drug Control Budget, FY 2014, Released April 2013, The White House
More Blog Entries:
Marijuana Legislation in the States: An Update, Part 2, April 3, 2013, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog