Joy Strickland, the CEO of Mothers Against Teen Violence in Dallas writes this thoughtful piece.
As an advocate in the crusade to prevent teen violence, my starting point is that every child deserves a safe and supportive home, school and community. Prevention strategies such as mentoring and conflict resolution – not to mention personal responsibility – are key pieces of the strategies of Mothers Against Teen Violence and other groups committed to preventing violence in our communities.
But those pieces are only part of the solution and must be balanced and supported by a rational and effective national drug policy.
Enacted during the Nixon administration, the so-called war on drugs was designed to reduce supply and diminish demand for certain substances deemed harmful or undesirable. But the drug war has never met this objective, and unintended consequences have undermined the health and safety of our citizens, especially our children.
I will never forget 9-year-old Cory Weems, who was killed by a stray bullet in 1994 while having ice cream on his grandmother's front porch in Dallas. A drug dealer engaged in a car chase was convicted of this crime. Cory's picture hangs on my office wall, a reminder of one of the drug war's victims.
Or consider that despite billions spent annually toward arresting and prosecuting nearly 800,000 people for marijuana offenses, high school students continue to find marijuana easy to obtain.
By some estimates, as many as 250,000 people die every year from the proper use of prescription drugs. On the other hand, I am not aware of one single death directly caused by marijuana. Yet we pay $25,000 per year to send a drug user to prison, where he will likely have access to the same drugs for which he has been incarcerated.
If we can't keep drugs out of prisons, it is irrational to expect that we can keep them off our streets. It is equally irrational to lock up an individual because of what he chooses to put in his own body.
Drug addiction is not a moral issue. It is a medical problem requiring medical intervention. But if news reports are any indication, it is easy to believe that the rich and famous go to rehab while the poor go to jail. This disparity is the real moral issue.