Mothers Day Plea to End the War on Drugs

Holidays are a constant challenge after a loss, and Mother's Day can be especially difficult after the loss of a child. But this Mother’s Day holds special promise.

As a mother, I have had a close encounter with prohibition violence. My son was killed with a friend in a random crime committed by two juveniles involved in gang activity and illegal drug use. Holidays are a constant challenge after a loss, and Mother’s Day can be especially difficult after the loss of a child. But this Mother’s Day holds special promise.
During our first fourteen years, Mothers Against Teen Violence worked valiantly, implementing school-based prevention and mentoring programs. But an NPR interview with Judge James P. Gray of Orange County, California three years ago, convinced me that MATV should be actively engaged in ending the drug war. Subsequently, we began the process of rebranding our organization, developing a three point plan for drug policy reform
The first tenet of our plan is effective prevention targeting children and teens. Our youth need age appropriate information based on science so that they can make good choices about drugs; and they need parents that model responsible use of recreational and prescription drugs.
Secondly, we believe that a public health approach to drug use and addiction is preferable to punitive measures. Understanding that drug trafficking is a supply and demand problem, all drug policies should be re-evaluated to determine the impact on the supply or demand for drugs. That said, our best hope at reducing demand is to help people resolve the underlying issues that cause them to abuse drugs.  Addiction is a disease, not a moral failure. Many drug abusers have suffered sexual abuse or other trauma. When we punish people for their addiction, often we are punishing them for being victims. Rehabilitation on demand is not only compassionate and cost effective, compared to incarceration, but also improves public safety.
And finally, we believe the time has come to end the racial disparity and encroachment on civil liberties that have been the hallmark of the drug war. All races use illegal drugs at remarkably similar rates. In fact, young white males are more likely to use and sell drugs than any other segment of the population. However, 74% of those incarcerated for drug related crimes are African Americans even though they make up only 13% of the population.
This Mother’s Day is special because— as an act of courage, commitment, and love—moms across America will launch a new national campaign aimed at ending the drug war. Moms United to End the War on Drugs will follow the model fashioned by moms in the 1930’s who led the successful fight to end Alcohol Prohibition.
We all want safer communities, but the drug war has not made our communities safer, helped people with addiction, or saved lives. Like Alcohol Prohibition, the drug war has led to gang violence and an overdose epidemic. Thanks to the drug war, America is the home of the largest prison system in world history. I am delighted to be part of a campaign focused on healing and ending forty years of a failed policy.

Joy Strickland is CEO of Mothers Against Teen Violence, Inc.
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