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Obama Budget Bans Federal Funding For Needle Exchange,
Breaking Campaign Pledge
President Obama's budget released Thursday takes a step backward from a controversial political position he had taken during the presidential campaign.
Obama, during the primary campaign, pledged his support of needle exchange programs to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS. When he took over the White House, the administration website affirmed: "The President also supports lifting the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users."
Yet Obama's budget includes language that bans spending federal money on needle-exchange programs.
White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said the administration isn't yet ready to lift the ban - but Obama still supports needle exchange.
"We have not removed the ban in our budget proposal because we want to work with Congress and the American public to build support for this change," he said. "We are committed to doing this as part of a National HIV/AIDS strategy and are confident that we can build support for these scientifically-based programs."
He added, "In recent years, Washington has used the budget process to litigate divisive issues and score political points. This practice, which both sides have engaged in, has limited our ability to tackle our major economic challenges. President Obama decided not to play politics as usual with this budget and while he remains committed to supporting the program he wants to address that through the normal legislative process."
The White House website no longer features the president's support of the program, however. See the before and after here.
"It's hard to imagine how removing mention of support for a proven lifesaving program from the White House website is part of a grand strategy to 'build support' for syringe exchange," said Tom Angell, a spokesman for the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
Obama's budget also includes a provision known as the "Barr Amendment," which prevents the District of Columbia from implementing a medical marijuana law that voters passed in an overwhelming referendum. Obama has pledged not to use Department of Justice resources to raid medical marijuana clinics in states where it is legal.
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