PDF _ IB10113 - War On Drugs: Legislation in the 108th Congress and Related Developments
23-May-2003; Mark Eddy; 18 p.

Update: April 14, 2003

Most Recent Developments

The Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act of 2003 (S. 226/H.R. 718) cleared both houses of Congress on April 10, 2003, and awaits the President?s signature into law. It was included in conference as a miscellaneous provision of S. 151, a children?s protection act. Originally proposed in the 108th Congress as the RAVE Act, the new law amends the ?crack house statute? to more directly target the producers of dance events, or ?raves,? at which drugs such as MDMA (Ecstasy) are often used.

House Government Reform?s Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources has held a series of hearings on reauthorization of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). The most recent, on April 8, 2003, was on the subject of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and the Counterdrug Technology Assessment Center programs. Previous hearings covered the 2003 National Drug Control Strategy and the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign.

Abstract: War on Drugs: Legislation in the 108th Congress and Current National Developments Prohibiting the non-medical use of certain mind-altering substances has been a public policy goal of the federal government for more than a century.

Drug abuse is a problem in the United States due to its economic cost, estimated to have been over $160 billion in 2000. This sum includes lost productivity, health care costs, and criminal justice expenditures. An estimated 1.6 million people were arrested in the United States in 2001 for drug abuse violations.

The federal Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), which coordinates the war on drugs, frames the issue as one of reducing drug-related crime and drug-caused health problems by reducing drug use. Other organizations frame the issue differently. Some groups, for example, frame their position on the drug war in terms of civil rights, religious freedom, or freedom of thought.

In recent years, Congress has taken an increasingly punitive stance toward drug addicts and casual users alike. A different approach has been taken by certain countries in Europe and elsewhere that are experimenting with less restrictive policies such as decriminalization and ?harm reduction? programs. The 108th Congress will receive strong encouragement from the Executive Branch to continue on its current path.

Among the early actions of the 108th Congress was passage of the remaining appropriations for FY2003, including those for the many federal drug control agencies and programs, and passage of the Illicit Drug Anti- Proliferation Act of 2003 (S. 226/H.R. 718), designed to control the use of ?club drugs? such as MDMA (Ecstasy). House hearings have been held on reauthorization of ONDCP (the office of the ?Drug Czar?) and the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign.

Other drug control issues likely to be taken up in the first session include the drug control budget for FY2004 and nomination of a new administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) due to the confirmation of the current administrator as Under-Secretary in the new Department of Homeland Security.

Other issues could also be the subject of congressional studies, investigations, and oversight hearings, if not legislation. These include state ballot initiatives regarding medical marijuana and drug treatment in lieu of incarceration, the effects of state budget deficits on the states? drug control efforts, and the impact of the anti-terrorism effort on the drug war. Other current developments concerning the war on drugs, both in the Executive Branch and elsewhere, are of likely interest to the 108th Congress. These include the President?s drug-control strategy for FY2004, the success of the drug war as measured by national surveys of drug use, and actions taken by DEA against industrial hemp products and medical marijuana providers.

For the latest on international drug control legislation and issues see CRS Issue Brief IB88093, Drug Control: International Policy and Approaches. [read report]

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