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Office of National Drug Control Policy

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Office of National Drug Control Policy
Agency overview
FormedOctober 27, 1989; 34 years ago (1989-10-27)
HeadquartersWashington, D.C., U.S.
Annual budget$379.1 million[1]
Agency executive
Parent agencyExecutive Office of the President

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is a component of the Executive Office of the President of the United States.

The director of the ONDCP, colloquially known as the drug czar, heads the office. "Drug czar" was a term first used in the media by Richard Nixon in 1971.[2] In addition to running the ONDCP, the director evaluates, coordinates, and oversees both the international and domestic anti-drug efforts of executive branch agencies and ensures that such efforts sustain and complement State and local anti-drug activities. The Director advises the President regarding changes in the organization, management, budgeting, and personnel of federal agencies that affect U.S. anti-drug efforts; and regarding federal agency compliance with their obligations under the National Drug Control Strategy, an annual report required by law. Prior to Rahul Gupta taking office in November, 2021, the most recent director was James. W. Carroll, who took over from former director Michael Botticelli. The fiscal year 2011 National Drug Control Budget proposed by the Obama administration devoted significant new resources to the prevention and treatment of drug abuse. These resources were complemented by an aggressive effort to enhance domestic law enforcement, interdiction, and supply control programs. New resources, $340 million, were added to the prevention and treatment of drug use.[3][4]


A National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign poster circa 2000 concerning cannabis in the United States

The programs directed by the ONDCP include:

Congressional issues[edit]

Bipartisan support for drug czar[edit]

The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, which created the Office of National Drug Control Policy, was the product of bi-partisan support. It was co-sponsored in the House of Representatives by parties' leaders, Tom Foley and Robert Michel,[5] and it passed by margins of 346–11 and 87–3 in the House and Senate, respectively.[6] Upon signing the law, Ronald Reagan said, "This bill is the product of a bipartisan effort."[7]


In September 2002, the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended that salaries and expenses at ONDCP be reduced from $26.6 million in fiscal 2006 to $11.5 million in fiscal 2007, to "more closely reflect actual performance." Committee members said they would request funding for a study of ONDCP by the National Academy of Public Administration. They also ordered a Government Accountability Office study on the distribution of grants. Plus, they directed the Director to provide quarterly updates on travel expenditures, staffing levels and plans for future hirings.[8]

In 2011, the ONDCP requested funding for 98 full-time employees, 64 (65.31%) of whom would be paid at either GS-15, GS-14, or SES pay grades, or more than $105,211.00 yearly, being adjusted for Washington, D.C. cost of living expenses.[9]

High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Program[edit]

In 2005, the Bush administration proposed transferring the $225 million High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Program from ONDCP to the Department of Justice. The program gives additional money to designated areas with chronic illicit drug problems. According to The Washington Post, "Many lawmakers oppose the transfer for fear the program would become less of a priority."[8]

Anti-legalization Policy[edit]

By law, the drug czar must oppose any attempt to legalize the use (in any form) of illicit drugs.[10] According to the "Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 1998"[11] the director of the ONDCP

(12) shall ensure that no Federal funds appropriated to the Office of National Drug Control Policy shall be expended for any study or contract relating to the legalization (for a medical use or any other use) of a substance listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812) and take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance (in any form) that –

1. is listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812); and

2. has not been approved for use for medical purposes by the Food and Drug Administration;

The Government Accountability Office has found that this law authorizes the ONDCP to disseminate information in order to oppose legalization:[12]

Finally, apart from considerations of whether any particular law has been violated, you have asked whether the Deputy Director's letter disseminated misleading information in connection with statements relating to the debate over legalization of marijuana. Clearly, the Deputy Director's statements reflect one perspective regarding marijuana – a perspective that is disputed by others with different viewpoints. However, ONDCP is specifically charged with the responsibility for "taking such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use" of certain controlled substances such as marijuana – a responsibility which logically could include the making of advocacy statements in opposition to legalization efforts. The Deputy Director's statements about marijuana are thus within the statutory role assigned to ONDCP. Given this role, we do not see a need to examine the accuracy of the Deputy Director's individual statements in detail.

Effectiveness of ONDCP[edit]

Extent of drug use in the U.S.[edit]

In September 2006, the office reported that the 2005 survey of 67,500 people found that 8.1 percent reported using an illicit drug in the 30 days prior to being asked about their drug use, which equates to 19.7 million people nationwide (age 12 and older). The percentage was up slightly compared to 2004. Youth drug use declined for the third year in a row.[13] While the ONDCP measures their efficacy against prior use statistics within the U.S., they do not publicize how these statistics compare against other countries at the time in their communications to the press. In 2008, ONDCP reported that actual youth drug use, as measured as the percent reporting past month use, declined from 19.4% to 14.8% among middle and high school students between 2001 and 2007.[14]

Anti-marijuana advertising[edit]

In August 2001, the office told a Congressional committee that its National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign "has been the most visible symbol of the federal government's commitment to drug prevention," and that the office was "investing $7 million a year in performance measurement to determine the effectiveness" of the campaign. The statement by said "We believe there is a strong body of evidence that indicates the campaign is working, as planned, to change drug attitudes, intentions and use."[15]

In 2002, according to a multiyear study by the research firm hired by the office, teenagers exposed to federal anti-drug ads were no less likely to use drugs for having viewed them, and some young girls said they were even more likely to give drugs a try. Walters blamed poor ads that weren't resonating with teenagers. Walters promised in Senate testimony in 2002 that he would show results within a year or admit failure, and Congress agreed to extend the campaign through 2003 while cutting funding for the ads from $170  million in 2002 to $150 million in 2003. An entirely new advertising campaign was created.[16]

In February 2005, a research company hired by the office and the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that the government's ad campaign aimed at dissuading teens from using marijuana, a campaign that cost $1.4 billion between 1998 and 2006, did not work: "greater exposure to the campaign was associated with weaker anti-drug norms and increases in the perceptions that others use marijuana." The research company was paid $42.7 million for the five-year study. After the February 2005 report was received, the office continued the ad campaign, spending $220 million on the anti-marijuana ads in fiscal years 2005 and 2006.[17]


According to the University of Michigan's annual Monitoring the Future report, the number of young people using drugs in the U.S. declined by 7 percent between 2001 and 2006,[18] though there is no evidence to suggest that government anti-drug programs that were started at the turn of the millennium helped cause this drop.[citation needed]

While cocaine production in Colombia initially decreased with the onset of Plan Colombia, the United Nations declared that in 2005, despite record levels of eradication by the U.S., coca production increased to about 330 square miles (850 km2).[19]


Paying for anti-drug messages in television shows[edit]

In the spring of 1998, the ONDCP began offering additional advertising dollars to networks that embedded anti-drug messages in their programming. They developed an accounting system to decide which network shows would be valued and for how much. Receiving advance copies of scripts, they assigned financial value to each show's anti-drug message. Then they would suggest ways that the networks could increase the payments they would get. The WB network's senior vice president for broadcast standards Rick Mater admitted, "The White House did view scripts. They did sign off on them – they read scripts, yes."[20]

Running the campaign for the ONDCP was Alan Levitt, who estimated that between 1998 and 2000 the networks received nearly $25 million in benefits.[20]

One example was with Warner Brothers' show, Smart Guy. The original script portrayed two young people using drugs at a party. Originally depicted as cool and popular, after input from the drug office, "We showed that they were losers and put them [hidden away to indulge in shamed secrecy] in a utility room. That was not in the original script."[20]

Other shows including ER, Beverly Hills, 90210, Chicago Hope, The Drew Carey Show and 7th Heaven also put anti-drug messages into their stories.[20]

In 2000, the Federal Communications Commission, in response to a complaint by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, sent inquiries to five major television networks about these practices.[21] The House Committee on Government Reform's Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources held hearings on the matter on July 11, 2000.[22] In December of that year, the FCC ruled that the networks should have identified the Office of National Drug Control Policy as the sponsor of the television programs.[23][24]

State and local decriminalization ballot measures[edit]

In December 2002, the Marijuana Policy Project, filed a complaint with the Nevada Secretary of State accusing the Drug Czar John Walters of illegally campaigning against its 2002 ballot initiative to decriminalize possession of up to 3 ounces of cannabis in that state. Specifically, MPP argued that Nevada campaign finance laws required the Drug Czar to reveal how much taxpayer money he had spent to defeat the initiative. In April 2003, the Nevada Attorney General concluded that the Drug Czar was not required to comply with Nevada's campaign finance laws. MPP filed a writ of mandamus as an appeal of the decision. The Nevada Supreme Court issued an order declaring that MPP had "set forth issues of arguable merit" in its writ; however, on August 18, 2004, the Court declared that it was "not satisfied that [the] court's intervention by way of extraordinary relief is warranted".[25]

A February 24, 2005 MPP press release announced that the group had filed similar complaints in Montana, Oregon, and Alaska, accusing the Drug Czar of failing to make legally required campaign expense disclosures:[26]

On October 5, 2004, the drug czar traveled to Oregon for the purpose of opposing Measure 33, a ballot measure designed to expand the state's medical marijuana program. On October 6, ONDCP Deputy Director Scott Burns traveled to Montana to campaign against Initiative 148, the medical marijuana measure passed by voters in November. And on October 13 and 14, Burns traveled to Alaska to oppose Measure 2, a measure to allow the state to tax and regulate the sale of marijuana. All of these trips were widely reported in the local press as being campaign stops in opposition to the reform initiatives.

Use of video news releases[edit]

In 2005, the Government Accountability Office found that the ONDCP had violated domestic propaganda and publicity prohibitions by preparing prepackaged news stories that did not disclose to television viewers that the government had produced them, had illegally spent appropriations to develop, produce and distribute the covert propaganda but use of the term "Drug Czar" in the "Video News Releases" had not constituted unlawful self-aggrandizement.[27]

ONDCP supporters such as Representatives Tom Davis and Mark Edward Souder have dismissed such criticism on the grounds that the ONDCP is expressly authorized by law to conduct anti-drug media campaigns.[28] According to Susan A. Poling, managing associate general counsel at the GAO, "What is objectionable about these is the fact the viewer has no idea their tax dollars are being used to write and produce this video segment.".[28]

2017 reported shutdown[edit]

As early as February 2017, The New York Times had reported that the Trump administration was considering eliminating the office, and other programs responsible for a total of $2.5 billion of domestic spending.[29] In May, the office's website was blanked and Politico and The Washington Post both reported that the office was about to be drastically defunded.[30][31] Later the office's website was unblanked.

List of directors[edit]

The title of Director, as well as the office, was created by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. The position had cabinet-level status from 1993 to 2009.

Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention (1971–1975)[edit]

Name Start End President
Jerry Jaffe June 17, 1971 June 17, 1973 Richard Nixon
Robert DuPont June 17, 1973 June 30, 1975
Gerald Ford

Office of Drug Abuse Policy (1977–1989)[edit]

Name Start End President
Peter Bourne January 20, 1977 June 20, 1978 Jimmy Carter
Lee Dogoloff June 20, 1978 January 20, 1981
Carlton Turner July 1981 February 2, 1987 Ronald Reagan
Ian Macdonald February 2, 1987 January 20, 1989

Office of National Drug Control Policy (1989–present)[edit]

Image Name Start End President
Bill Bennett March 13, 1989 December 13, 1990 George H. W. Bush
Bob Martinez March 28, 1991 January 20, 1993
John Walters
January 20, 1993 July 19, 1993 Bill Clinton
Lee Brown July 19, 1993 January 1996
Barry McCaffrey February 29, 1996 January 20, 2001
Ed Jurith
January 20, 2001 February 5, 2001 George W. Bush
John Walters February 5, 2001 January 20, 2009
Ed Jurith
January 20, 2009 May 7, 2009 Barack Obama
Gil Kerlikowske May 7, 2009 March 6, 2014
Michael Botticelli March 6, 2014
Acting: March 6, 2014 – February 11, 2015
January 20, 2017
Kemp Chester
January 20, 2017 March 27, 2017 Donald Trump
Rich Baum
March 28, 2017 February 9, 2018
Jim Carroll February 9, 2018
Acting: February 9, 2018 – January 3, 2019
January 19, 2021
Regina LaBelle
January 20, 2021 November 5, 2021 Joe Biden
Rahul Gupta November 5, 2021 present

Legislation and executive orders[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Drug Control Budget" (PDF). whitehouse.gov. Retrieved 21 December 2018 – via National Archives.
  2. ^ Office of the White House Press Secretary, 1971. Jerome Jaffe Appointed as First “Drug Czar” (Richard Nixon Presidential Library, White House Central Files, Subject Files: Speech, Box 73)https://cdn.nixonlibrary.org/01/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/16144809/Appointment-of-Jerome-Jaffe-as-director-of-SAODAP-6-17-71.jpg
  3. ^ FY 2011 Drug Control Program Highlights
  4. ^ Administration's FY 2011 Budget Proposal Demonstrates Balanced Approach to Drug Control February 1, 2010
  5. ^ Bill History for H.R. 5210, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 Archived 2008-12-19 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Major Congressional Actions for H.R. 5210, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988.
  7. ^ "President Reagan's signing statement". Archived from the original on 2009-05-07. Retrieved 2009-09-08.
  8. ^ a b Kevin Freking, "Panel Advises Cutting Salaries at Agency"[dead link], The Washington Post, September 12, 2006
  9. ^ Office of National Drug Control Policy Fiscal Year 2012 Appropriations Request (PDF file)
  10. ^ The Drug Czar is required by law to lie
  11. ^ Title VII Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 1998
  12. ^ Application of Anti-Lobbying Laws to the Office of National Drug Control Policy's Open Letter to State Level Prosecutors, B-301022, March 10, 2004
  13. ^ Kevin Freking, "Drug Use Up for Boomers, Down for Teens"[dead link], The Washington Post, September 7, 2006
  14. ^ Office of National Drug Control Policy Executive Office of the President: CURRENT STATE OF DRUG POLICY: SUCCESSES AND CHALLENGES, March 2008
  15. ^ "National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign: How to Ensure the Program Operates Efficiently and Effectively", Testimony to Congress, August 1, 2001
  16. ^ Shawn Zeller, "Ads, Drugs & Money" Archived 2007-03-15 at the Wayback Machine, Government Executive magazine, September 19, 2003
  17. ^ Ryan Grim, A White House Drug Deal Gone Bad: Sitting on the Negative Results of a Study of Anti-Marijuana Ads, Slate magazine, September 7, 2006
  18. ^ "Monitoring the Future" (MTF) survey, December 2006
  19. ^ "Coca production up despite record eradication" (MSNBC), June 2006
  20. ^ a b c d Prime-time propaganda Archived 2007-01-15 at the Wayback Machine, January 13, 2000, Salon.com
  21. ^ "FCC Sends Formal Inquiries To Five Television Networks Allegedly Involved In ONDCP Payola Scandal" Archived 2011-09-27 at the Wayback Machine, NORML news bulletin, April 20, 2000
  22. ^ "House Committee To Hold July 11 Hearing On ONDCP Payola Scandal; Salon.com Writer Who Broke The Story Will Face-Off Against Drug Czar" Archived 2011-09-27 at the Wayback Machine, NORML news bulletin, June 29, 2000
  23. ^ "FCC Rules In Favor of NORML", NORML News Bulletin, December 28, 2000
  24. ^ FCC termination of investigation of February 17, 2000 complaint by NORML, letter dated December 20, 2000
  25. ^ "MPP's first victory in 'War on Drug Czar' campaign is short-lived; Nevada Supreme Court order allows Drug Czar to ignore state campaign finance laws" Archived 2005-03-05 at the Wayback Machine, Marijuana Policy Project
  26. ^ War On Drug Czar Archived 2005-03-05 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ "Office of National Drug Control Policy—Video News Release". U.S. Government Accountability Office. 2005-01-04. Archived from the original on 2021-01-25. Retrieved 2008-09-06.
  28. ^ a b Christopher Lee, "Anti-Drug Office's Videos Defended: Davis Says Ruling That Law Was Violated Is Wrong", The Washington Post, February 4, 2005
  29. ^ Sharon LaFraniere; Alan Rappeport (February 17, 2017), "Popular Domestic Programs Face Ax Under First Trump Budget", The New York Times
  30. ^ Dan Diamond (May 5, 2017), "Trump budget would effectively kill drug control office", Politico
  31. ^ "Report: White House plans to slash funding for fed Drug Control Policy office", The Washington Post, May 5, 2017, archived from the original on May 6, 2017, retrieved May 7, 2017 – via MassCentral

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]