Millions of dollars in federal funds provided to the states to fight the war against drugs are going unspent, the Office of National Drug Control Policy says.
States have been spending just two-thirds of their federal grants aimed at fighting drugs over the last four years, according to the agency.
The situation is most striking for law enforcement grants, where states have spent only 40 percent of the federal money they have received, said Bruce Carnes, director of planning, budget and administration for the drug policy office.
Anti-drug block grants issued by the Justice Department dropped from $178 million in fiscal 1987 to a low of $56 million in 1988. They jumped back to $119 million in 1989 before zooming to $395 million in fiscal 1990, which ended Sept. 30. They climb to $423 million this year.
"There's going to be a huge wave of money," Carnes said. "It started to descend on them in '89 and '90, and it's going to keep going up this year."
Carnes said states spent 82 percent of their drug treatment and prevention grants, 46 percent of their drug education grants and 40 percent of their law enforcement grants.
Overall, the three block grant programs sent $5 billion to the states from October 1986 through June 1990.
Only $3.4 billion, or 68 percent, of that amount was distributed during that time by state and territorial governments to anti-drug programs, the figures show.
"Obviously I'd like to see it higher," Carnes said, "but I'm not prepared to say they're not doing their jobs."
Hawaii was one of the states that spent the least -- 52 percent -- of its grants, and Hawaii Attorney General Warren Price said county prosecutors and police departments in the state use county funds for anti-drug efforts and later seek reimbursement from the federal grants. He said this creates a time lag that makes it appear that federal funds are not being spent quickly.
The drug policy office said it opposes giving such grants directly to cities on grounds that doing so would burden the federal government. "Instead of speeding up the process," the office said in a report on grants, "the time required at the federal level to review thousands of applications from local governments would almost certainly slow it down."