On June 17, 1971, President Richard Nixon announced that the United States was fighting a “War on Drugs.”
Nixon declared that drug abuse was “public enemy number one in the United States,” a crisis that forced the federal government to realign massive resources toward enforcement of drug law and drug treatment. Two years later, Nixon established the Drug Enforcement Agency, which still oversees drug policy today.
Over forty years and $1 trillion of spending later, the War on Drugs is a controversial policy. In 2011, the self-appointed Global Commission on Drug Policy, consisting of political leaders and public intellectuals, released a report stating, “The global war on drugs has failed.” No president, however, has seriously challenged the policy, and spending on the program has increased annually.
While it is unlikely that either President Obama or Governor Romney would entirely reverse US drug policy if elected in 2012, they would take very different approaches going forward.