In 1971, President Richard Nixon declared drug abuse in the U.S. Public Enemy Number One. That was the start of what became known as "The War On Drugs," a prohibition campaign involving law enforcement, tougher drug laws — even foreign military involvement — to reduce the illegal drug trade.
So how has that War On Drugs worked out? After more than 40 years, the U.S. has spent tens of billions of dollars on it, and now has the highest incarceration rate in the world — largely because of drug sentencing policies. And addiction rates, while dropping, remain high.
But at the White House last week, further indications of what some say is a long over due change in course: it was the first-ever White House Conference on Drug Policy Reform. The Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske, declared: “Drug policy reform should be rooted in neuroscience , not political science.” And “it should be a public health issue, not just a criminal justice issue.”
Carey Goldberg, co-host of WBUR's CommonHealth blog
Michael Botticelli, Deputy Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy
This segment aired on December 16, 2013.