My First Mothers Day

Posted on 08 May 2011

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By Margaret Dooley-Sammuli

My husband and I will welcome our first child at the end of this month. It’s a very exciting time – one filled with hopes for who our child will be and trepidation at what he will face in life. There are all the usual questions: will he be healthy? Will he be smart? Who will he grow up to be? And then there’s the concern that sometimes sneaks up on me when I least expect it: will he develop an alcohol or drug problem?

I’m not sure how many other moms-to-be have the same worry, but I doubt I’m alone. About 7.8 million Americans are in need of drug treatment, according to the 2009 U.S. National Survey of Drug Use and Health. And all of them belong to families – like mine.

My family is full of wonderful people. It just so happens that some of them have struggled with alcohol or drugs and with depression. In my parents’ and grandparents’ generations, it was alcohol. In my generation, family members have struggled with other drugs (both prescription and illicit) as much as with alcohol. 

I have no doubt that my son will be a wonderful person, too – whether or not he develops an alcohol or drug problem at some point in his life. I do have doubts, though, about whether he’ll be able to get the help he might need and be treated with the dignity that he will deserve.

Besides being my first, there’s something else noteworthy about this particular Mothers Day. It’s almost exactly four decades since President Nixon called drugs “public enemy number one” and ramped up the drug war that has made the U.S. the world’s top incarcerator. The U.S. now incarcerates about as many people for drug law violations as all of Western Europe locks up for everything.

At the same time, our country’s drug policy still fails to address our loved ones’ drug problems. Even under President Obama, funding for drug treatment is just a fraction of what it should be – and a tiny amount compared to what is spent on arrests, prosecution and incarceration. Preventable drug overdose is now the second-leading cause of accidental death in the US, after car accidents.

Just as I’ve worked hard during this pregnancy to get my baby off to a good start, I will do everything I can to keep him healthy and to give him the tools he’ll need to make good decisions. Despite how hard I’ll try, I know that I may not be able to prevent him from developing an alcohol or drug problem. But I just might be able to help change U.S. drug policies so that they stop emphasizing stigmatization and exclusion – and put health and dignity first.

That’s why I have joined with other mothers to end the war on drugs. Just as moms played a crucial role in ending alcohol Prohibition, we can do it again. Forty years after Nixon’s war on drugs, it’s time to say enough is enough. It’s time to end this destructive prohibition that has devastated too many families. We owe it to our very young and future children.


Margaret Dooley-Sammuli is a member of Moms United to End the War on Drugs, a national collaborative effort to change our current punitive policies of arrest and imprisonment to health-oriented and therapeutic strategies, and is deputy state director in Southern California for the Drug Policy Alliance.

Want to do something about the WOD? So does

70% of the war on drugs is a war on marijuana. 90% of marijuana convictions in Washington State are for possession only. Washington State will spend over $153 Million arresting, prosecuting and jailing over 14,000 Washingtonians for possession alone in 2011. We lay off teachers and our infrastructure crumbles as we build new jails to house, and ruin the futures of, otherwise productive citizens.

Sensible Washington has sponsored an initiative to end all of this. It would end all civil and criminal penalties for marijuana at the state level.

If you really want to end the drug war go to and donate $20 and/or if you vote in Washington State get a petition and find a way to get it filled and turned back it. You can end the war on drugs in Washington State this year. When it ends in one state, truly ends, your state will follow rapidly no matter where in this country you live.

It is much easier to get past an addiction that a conviction and much easier still if you are not stigmatized as a criminal for becoming addicted.

We are a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community. Your website offered us with valuable info to work on. You have done an impressive job and our entire community will be grateful to you.

Ending prohibition was one of the worst decisions this county has ever made. The sheer amount of money that has gone into DUI deaths, alcohol poisoning, health problems (both physical and mental), broken marriages and relationships, and the teenage drinking epidemic; the small amount of tax money we get doesn't even compare to the billions we spend on alcohol related problems. To use prohibition as an example is idiotic at best. Marijuana is a mind altering drug and should be illegal, anything you do in life you can do better drug free. Society doesn't need another legal drug problem, society in general is at it's best clean and sober. Even liberal California had enough sense to shoot down prop 19!

The 18th amendment was a stupid decision. It led to organized crime, corruption of law enforcement, loss of public safety.

The War on Drugs is a worse decision. How much money have we spent on it? What are the results?

You can't change human nature, and in a Democracy there are limits to how much you can control human behavior.

Even MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) is against legalizing marijuana.

Most of what Congress does is harmful. We would be better off if they all went home.
Drugs weren't much of a problem in the 1940s and 1950s. What happened?

Anyone seriously interested in understanding addictions should purchase and read, "In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts," by Gabor Mate, M.D. This will tell you all you need to know about the "war on drugs." It will also shed light on the fact that we all have an addiction of some kind, and it could just as easily be one of us who hasn't yet had to deal with it head-on, who will become the next hard-core addict.