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SEP 25 '98 16:51 YALE PUBLIC INFO

DF Musto, MD

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Testimony 29 Sept. 1988

In this brief statement I have been able to touch on only

some of the great issues confronting our nation and its drug

problon. Although I can empathize with those who out of

frustration wish to legalize drugs, I believe the history of

America's battles with drugs gives us hope that we can overcome

the prosent difficulties. The fundamental change of attitude

toward drugs which undergirdo a reduction in denend is currently underway. We must be careful to not let our antagonian get out of

hand. We can overcome drugs and achieve a more cohesivo,

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Statement by Congressman Robert Garcia

Before the Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control

September 30, 1988

The most controversial issue in our debate on a national drug

policy is the issue of legalization. Mr. Chairman, I wanted to be here today to express my concerns about legalization because I believe that decriminalization poses dangerous repercussions for this country repercussions we simply cannot risk and cannot

sustain.

I oppose this idea and urge my colleagues to carefully weigh

the consequences. This proposal has also come at a time when public opinion towards drug abuse has taken a positive turn and when the

House has just passed a major anti-drug abuse bili, improving existing legislation passed in 1986.

I believe we should put our energies and resources into these

measures, confident that we can win the fight against drugs. Even

with respect to less controversial drug usage such as tobacco and alcohol, we as a nation are still coming to terms with the tragic

social and health risks that these substances present to our

nation. I believe that the risks of legalization are just too

great.

I applaud Chairman Rangel for holding these hearings. It is

very important to fully explore all alternative solutions to the

drug problem. I urge, however, special caution concerning such a potentially dangerous public policy initiative.

This hearing represents the responsible and dedicated work of

Chairman Rangel and other Members of the House that will continue

to be necessary to reach the goal of eliminating drug abuse from

our streets and classrooms

from our homes and workplaces. Like

so many problems that face our country today, there is surely no

one single solution to the problem. That is why I favor a full

national commitment for education and prevention programs,

treatment centers and effective law enforcement.

As the Representative of the South Bronx in New York City, a congressional district with major narcotics problems, I believe the advocates of legalization are failing to take into consideration a number of factors. The most significant concern that I have about

the legalization of drugs is the resulting increase in widespread use of drugs, especially among our youth. This would have a particularly large, negative impact in the inner cities and

minority communities.

Minority communities have traditionally carried the bulk of the weight of the nation's social problems. Drug abuse is no

exception. Without the present legal restraints, we would face the

prospect that more black and Hispanic youngsters would turn to

illegal drugs as an escape valve to the social and economic

difficulties they are confronted with everyday.

Legalization is no message to be sending our young people and our inner city communities. It is no policy for this nation to

adopt. There is no quick and easy solution to this problem:

The war on drugs requires effective education for everyone,

especially high risk populations.

The war on drugs requires effective treatment facilities,
especially for inner-city IV drug users.

The war on drugs requires providing better job opportunities, better housing, and better health care. It requires providing hope.

The war on drugs, Mr. Chairman, requires our full commitment to improving the lives of those who need our help the most these

are the people at most risk of drug abuse. We cannot give up on the

war on drugs, nor can we give up on the people who have no better

alternative available to them today.

I am also troubled by the idea that legalization will deter crime and the criminal element. As long as there are potential

users who cannot obtain drugs through legal channels, like

underaged children and users without adequate income, there will be pushers and dealers who are only too willing to sell their product. Unless we are willing to legalize all drugs, including those that are proven to be fatal PCP, LSD or Crack, and unless we are

willing to make them available to everyone we will be faced with criminal activity and youth involvement.

Legalization also raises the question whether police officers, airline pilots, truck drivers, physicians or participants in potentially hazardous occupations should be subject to special restrictions or testing. It also fails to recognize the incidences of AIDS resulting from IV drug use, and infant addiction resulting

from drug abuse among pregnant women. Legalization is not the

answer to the drug problem. It is instead a response developed in frustration that will add to, not detract from, the problem. We cannot surrender to this menace at a time when we have not yet devoted the maximum effort and resources towards prevention,

education and enforcement.

The tide in America is changing. The fight to eliminate

dangerous drugs from our society is a long and difficult struggle

that can and will be acheived. I do not argue against discussing all possible solutions to the drug problem, but we have just begun the war on drugs and we should not give up now. Nor should we introduce the uncertainty of legalization to an already complex and serious problem:

There are too many unknowns.

There is too much at stake.

There are too many lives to be lost to addiction.

Mr. Chairman, I thank you for the opportunity to speak before

the Select Committee this morning. I also commend you for your

dedication to this problem. It requires our full commitment and

involvement.

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