This is an appeal to mothers who have seen first hand the devastation of the drug war.
Please join together now and lead the charge to end drug prohibition, just as a previous generation of mothers did to end to alcohol Prohibition in the 1930s. Now is the time to demand an end to the pointless and punitive criminalization of people who use drugs -- whether they are our children or our neighbor's children -- and the needless violence and death caused by the illegal drug trade.
We're starting that movement in San Diego.
Mothers, family members and people in recovery gathered in San Diego yesterday evening to bring focus to our country's failed drug policies and the damage they've done to our families. The rally and vigil kicked off a statewide campaign to stop the overdose deaths, mass incarceration and prohibition-related violence that are the result of our country's punitive and discriminatory drug policies.
We are joining together because we see, from our own families' experiences, that the war on drugs is doing much more harm than good.
As the drug war rages on, our loved ones' drug problems are neglected. Prevention, harm reduction and treatment programs are tiny and getting smaller as funding is cut. More than 26,000 lives are lost to the preventable tragedy of accidental drug overdose every year in the U.S., making accidental drug overdose the leading cause of injury-related death for people between the ages of 35-54 and the second-leading cause of injury-related death for young people. This crisis now claims more lives each year than firearms, homicides and HIV/AIDS.
Instead of actually addressing our loved ones' drug problems, the country spends billions to incarcerate them for nothing more than drug possession. Over 1.8 million people were arrested on a drug charge in the U.S. in 2008 alone -- 1.4 million of them for possession, not sales, manufacturing or trafficking. Nearly half of all drug arrests in 2008 were for a marijuana violation. Thanks in large part to the drug war, one in 32 American adults is either incarcerated, on parole or probation or under some other form of state or local supervision.
What's worse: they are never forgiven. When they come home, they face life-long exclusions, including the permanent loss of educational and employment opportunities, as well as public housing, food stamps and, in many states, the right to vote. Ultimately, what we see in our families is that addiction may be easier to overcome than a criminal record.
At the same time as our children are needlessly suffering and dying in the U.S., Mexico has ramped up its own U.S.-inspired drug war to the detriment of families there. Since 2007, prohibition-related violence has exploded in Mexico. Over 22,700 people have been killed in the last three years in the ongoing battle with drug cartels, which may generate as much as 60 percent of their profits from the marijuana trade alone. Unfortunately, this battle shows no signs of slowing.
Mothers must speak up now and demand that the U.S. and Mexico end this failed war on drugs -- a war waged on our families - and instead invest in a health-centered approach to drug use.
In California, moms have a major opportunity to end mass arrests of our children and to fight prohibition-relation violence by passing an initiative in November this year to decriminalize marijuana and regulate it like alcohol. With one vote, we can dramatically reduce drug arrests in this state and take massive amounts of profits away from drug cartels.
Together, mothers can end the neglect and destruction of the drug war. We have to. Our families and our children are at stake.
We don't have to start from scratch. Eleven years ago, a group of parents in San Diego founded A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing) to advocate for therapeutic drug policies. In over a decade, we've worked hard to expand access to drug treatment and opportunities for treatment instead of incarceration. We've learned that moms -- and dads and others who care -- can achieve great things together, including the passage of Proposition 36, California's landmark treatment-instead-of-incarceration law, in 2000.
It's time to demand more and we need your help. Join us.
Gretchen Burns Bergman
April 29, 2010