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Last Updated:3/23/00
Speech by Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minnesota), March 22, 2000
SETTING PRIORITIES FOR FIGHTING THE WAR ON DRUGS (House of Representatives - March 22, 2000)

[Page: H1248] GPO's PDF

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Ramstad) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. RAMSTAD. Mr. Speaker, in today's St. Paul Pioneer Press this headline caught my attention this morning. It reads, `Drug-Related Deaths Set Record.'

The story goes on to say that `drug-related deaths in the United States have reached a record level, while illegal drug users can buy cocaine and heroin at some of the lowest prices in two decades, according to a White House report.' It further states that `some 15,973 people in this country died from drug-induced causes in 1997, an increase of 1,130 people over the previous year.'

The story further states that `only four of every 10 addicts in the United States who needed treatment received it,' according to the report. Then it concludes by stating that `the figures surely are distressing news for the Clinton Administration, which is spending record amounts of money to fight the war on drugs.'

Mr. Speaker, why do we have a record number of deaths from illegal drugs? Because we are spending the money in the wrong places.

Now the administration is calling for the expenditure of another $1.7 billion for drug eradication and interdiction in Colombia . We have already spent $600 million fighting the drug war in Colombia . What has been the result? The production of cocaine and heroine has skyrocketed. In fact, 80 percent of the cocaine and 75 percent of the heroin today in the United States comes from Colombia .

Mr. Speaker, our priorities are all out of line in the war against drugs. For the $400 million proposed to build new helicopters for Colombia , we could treat 200,000 addicts in the United States. When President Nixon in 1971 declared war on drugs, he directed 60 percent of the funding to treatment, and do you know what it is today, Mr. Speaker? Eighteen percent, 18 percent of the funding.

Overall, since the war on drugs started, we have spent $150 billion on crop eradication and drug interdiction. What has been the result? We have 26 million addicts and alcoholics in the United States today. Most are unable to get into treatment. Ten million have no insurance and therefore cannot get treatment through Medicaid. Sixteen million have insurance, but the insurance companies are blocking the access of all but 2 percent of these to treatment.

In the last 10 years, Mr. Speaker, we have seen 50 percent of the treatment centers close in America. Even more alarming, 60 percent of the adolescent treatment centers in this country are gone.

We need to wake up. The Congress needs to wake up. The President needs to wake up. We have a national epidemic of addiction on our hands, and we are about to spend good money after bad, another $1.7 billion for the Colombia boondoggle.

We need to listen to former Lieutenant Commander Sylvester Salcedo, who for 3 years worked on this effort with our intelligence forces and our military in Colombia . This is the way Lieutenant Commander Salcedo put it: `This is a misdirection of our priorities. This money should be going to treating addicts in the United States, rather than trying to eradicate crops in Colombia .'

Mr. Speaker, I hope that wisdom and good judgment prevail in this body when this vote comes up, because this is truly a defining moment in our effort to curb illegal drug use in the United States. Are we going to continue wasting money on these eradication and interdiction efforts that do not work? All the studies show that treatment is 23 times more effective, more cost effective, than eradication. All the studies show that treatment is 11 times more cost effective than interdiction efforts.

When are we going to learn? When are we going to learn? Let us remember when this war on drugs was first declared by President Nixon, he said we should spend 60 percent of the money on treatment. Today it is down to 18 percent. We need to reverse those priorities. We need to emphasize treatment, provide access to the 26 million Americans already addicted to drugs and alcohol. Until we do something about the demand side, the disease of addiction that causes people to crave and demand drugs, we are never going to put a dent in this problem, which everyone in this body says is the number one public health and public safety problem.

Mr. Speaker, I urge this body to defeat the almost-$2 billion for more wasteful efforts in Colombia and redirect those priorities to drug treatment here at home.

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