CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Ouziel on The Bureaucratic Afterlife of the Controlled Substances Act

Lauren M. Ouziel (Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law) has posted The Bureaucratic Afterlife of the Controlled Substances Act (Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2020) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Fifty years after its enactment, it is clear that in key respects, the original aims of the Controlled Substances Act, and the larger statutory scheme of which it was a part, have not been realized. Intended to reduce demand through investments in treatment and prevention programs, demandreduction expenditures instead trailed supply-reduction expenditures for decades. Designed to steer federal criminal enforcement towards highlevel traffickers and kingpins, today’s federal prisons are filled with nonviolent, relatively lower-level offenders. What explains this divergence? This essay locates a contributing source in the organizational dynamics of federal agency advancement. Twelve different executive branch agencies are tasked with responsibility for reducing drug supply or demand (or both), and they operate under diverse constraints, incentives and pressures. Collectively, these dynamics have generated a political economy of federal drug control that values outputs over outcomes and rewards autonomous agency decision-making over collective action. In turn, that economy pushes federal drug control towards criminal enforcement and away from other potentially more effective methods. The essay concludes with suggestions for reform. More broadly, it offers an account of the interaction between federal drug legislation and the institutional actors who bring it to life—illuminating the many ways in which bureaucratic dynamics have, both intentionally and inadvertently, “made” federal drug control policy on the ground.

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