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U.S. drug laws harmful, need thorough reform


 By Bob Ramsey, Drug Policy Forum of Texas

From USA Today, Tuesday, January 5, 1999

It is difficult to imagine the long-term impact of what the drug war is doing to our country.

As many as 2.5 million American children now have at least one parent in prison, and that number grows as we add 1,200 people each week to the inmate population. Instead of looking at what could have been, perhaps we should look at what could have NOT been. My grandfather was an immigrant who came to this country with little more than the clothes on his back. He worked in a shoe factory outside of Boston where he and his wife raised two children in a small single-family house. He has seven grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren who were and/or are mostly productive members of society, including at least one doctor, educator, engineer, lawyer, military officer, and politician. His descendents have served our country in time of war and paid millions of dollars in taxes. During the alcohol prohibition era of the 1920s, my grandfather had some sort of a small grain press that he shared with a neighbor.

They used it to make alcoholic beverages, which was against the law. For that era, it was the equivalent of growing your own pot or cooking up methamphetamine. Imagine the impact on his family if today's drug penalties were in effect at that time. What would have happened if my grandfather had been sent to prison, his house confiscated, and my mother had been thrown out on the street when she was 8 years old? What if, instead of building universities, our country had spent the money on prisons?

What if my grandmother, instead of saving up money for her children's education, had spent everything on bus tickets to visit her husband in a faraway prison? What would that have done to our country two or three generations later­­which is now? I don't know if it's possible for you to visualize such devastation, to imagine the effect on your own life if your parents had been raised in poverty because vicious busybodies didn't like what your grandpa ate or drank­­and to imagine the cumulative effect on the nation.

We are destroying peoples' lives to protect them from themselves, and in the process we are also destroying our country.

Millions of Americans are living this nightmare every day in every city across our country.

More are entering it every day. The pace is accelerating, and the effect on the underlying medical problem is negligible. I am working to reform our drug laws. This damage must stop. We've got to find another way to deal with this problem.

Bob Ramsey, Board of Directors
Drug Policy Forum of Texas
Fort Worth, Texas

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