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Last Updated:8/6/03
Speech by Rep. Cass Ballenger (R-North Carolina), July 23, 2003

Mr. BALLENGER. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.

Mr. Chairman, I think anybody that has any knowledge at all recognizes drug abuse is the most dangerous threat that we have in our country today. We spend nearly $11 billion inside the country to fight this drug disaster. Aid to Colombia is the most effective weapon we have against drug production, not drug use.

The estimated economic cost of illegal drug use in the United States has been over $160 billion in the year 2000. The $731 million provided in the Andean Drug Initiative in this appropriations bill is necessary and money well spent and these funds will save the U.S. money in the long term.

The previous speaker spoke of the number of people that were dying of AIDS and where the money could be of use to them. There is an estimated 4.7 million Americans age 12 and older in the year 2000 who needed treatment for illicit drug use and drug abuse problems. That accounts for 2.1 percent of the national population. If you could measure the cost per individual what drugs have cost us in this country, it is $34,200 a year.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that 1.6 million people were arrested in the United States in 2001 for drug abuse violations. Nearly one in four persons were held in U.S. jails and prisons in 2000, 57 percent were imprisoned for drug offenses.

I think the statement that the war on drugs and Plan Colombia is not working is completely false. It was very slow in getting started and I blame this body right here for the first 2 years that we were ineffective because it was an argument about how the money should be spent, how it should be allotted as far as which helicopters and which aid. It is our fault here that it took so long to get going.

There was a statement made that the production of coca had increased. That is false. It has shrunk in the last year. In fact, it has been one of the most successful years that we have ever had in reducing the production of this coca in Colombia. Also, there were statements made about how horrible the paramilitary forces have been, and in the past they were terrible, but paramilitary forces within the last week have signed a peace agreement with the government.

If the ELN and FARC would do the same, the communist element that we are supposedly helping out by shrinking this budget would go away.

I would like to say that reducing drug production is what we need in this country most, and every penny that we spend on it is worth its effort, not only from North Carolina to Massachusetts but California to Missouri. Drugs are blind on who they affect, and the effort we are putting forth in Colombia is probably the most effective way that we have of reducing drug use in this country.

As of August 6, 2003, this document was also available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/B?r108:@FIELD(FLD003+h)+@FIELD(DDATE+20030723)

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