National Drug Control Strategy 2014: Charting a Third Way

"The drug czar's office is still tone deaf when it comes to marijuana policy," says MPP's Mason Tvert about the latest missive from the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), their strategy report for 2014.

National Drug Control Strategy 2014 leads off with a note from Pres. Obama, who proclaims: "We have worked to reform our criminal justice system, addressing unfair sentencing disparities, providing alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent substance-involved offenders, and improving prevention and re-entry programs to protect public safety and improve outcomes for people returning to communities from prisons and jails."

Part of the introduction reads: "While we have made significant progress in advancing evidence-based drug policy reform, serious challenges still remain. Among those challenges are the declining perceptions of harm - and associated increases in use - of marijuana among young people. These challenges have gained prominence with the passage of state ballot initiatives in 2012 legalizing marijuana in the states of Colorado and Washington. In August, DOJ released guidance reiterating that marijuana remains illegal under federal law and that federal law enforcement activities in these two states would continue to be guided by eight priorities focused on protecting public health and safety. ONDCP is working with DOJ and other Federal partners to monitor the implementation of these state laws and the public health and safety consequences related to these eight priorities."

The report concludes: We must seek to avoid over-simplified debates between the idea of a 'war on drugs' and the notion of legalization as a panacea.

"In reality, drug use and its consequences are complex phenomena requiring an array of evidence-based policy responses. The Administration remains committed to charting this 'third way' toward a healthier, safer and more prosperous America."

Presumably the first way is all-out prohibition, the second way is legalization and the third way focuses mainly on prevention and treatment, rather than incarceration.

Tvert's not buying it. "Why stay the course when the current policy has utterly failed to accomplish its goals?" he asks. "The strategy even goes so far as to lament the public's growing recognition that marijuana is not as harmful as we were once led to believe. President Obama finally acknowledged the fact that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, yet his administration is going to maintain a policy of punishing adults who make the safer choice. Most Americans think marijuana should be made legal, and even the Justice Department has acknowledged that regulating marijuana could be a better approach than prohibition. Legalizing and regulating marijuana is not a panacea, but it is sound policy.”

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.