This I Believe

Suzanne - Dallas, Texas
Entered on April 9, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: war

I believe the war on drugs is the most destructive social policy we have.

I graduated from SMU in the 1966; seven years before the creation of the Drug Enforcement Agency made common weeds more valuable than gold. I had heard of marijuana and other drugs but had never seen them. Few people had.

Twenty years later, when my son was in high school, drug use had become commonplace among the young. A ruthless black market had developed along with a huge and expensive law enforcement effort. I anguished over the situation, talked with my friends and wrote a few letters to the editor, but otherwise did nothing.

In 1996, I received a letter that changed the course of my life. Dr. Alan Robison had read one of my letters in the Dallas Morning News and he asked me to join the Drug Policy Forum of Texas (DPFT).

Dr. Robison was one of the few researchers who had been allowed to study marijuana during the 1970s. When he retired as Chairman of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. He wanted to tell people that the laws about marijuana and other drugs have no relationship to the risks. He and Jerry Epstein, a former Marine, retired businessman and an outspoken critic of the drug war formed DPFT.

After joining I soon learned that drug prohibition is causing much more damage than I had realized.

• Even people who need marijuana to relieve their pain or save their sight are being arrested and imprisoned for using it.

• The Dutch, who have the most famously different drug laws from ours, use marijuana and other drugs at less than half the rate at which Americans use them.

• People of color are targeted for arrest in huge numbers, far out of proportion to the rates at which they use or sell drugs.

• The majority of the crime and violence in the country is related to the illegal drug trade.

• We are failing to take public health measures, such as providing sterile syringes to addicts to curb the AIDS epidemic, because of excessive focus on the drug war.

• Drug use in wealthy countries is causing people in poor countries to turn to the illegal drug trade to earn a decent living.

• The U.S. government is spending at least $50 billion per year on drug law enforcement.

In 1997, I made the first talk before an audience that I had ever made. I spoke to a small Kiwanis club on “Drug War: How We Got Into This Mess.” Since then I have spoken to many organizations and have arranged for other speakers to give presentations on various aspects of 21st Century prohibition.

The drug war was started with the stroke of a pen and could be ended the same way. No other single act would have such a beneficial effect on public health and social justice.