My 'Addiction' To Fighting Drugs

Addiction is a horrible affliction. There are many types. Mine is perhaps the only one that happens to a “positive” addiction. It is to fighting drugs—not taking them, not selling them and not accepting them!

My first exposure to the need to fight drugs occurred when my sons were five and nine years old. I was a stay-at-home mother and loved what I was doing. We had a wonderful, close family relationship.

Suburban Shock

Our introduction to illicit drug use came, not from within our family, but from our neighborhood. My husband, Ray, was the first to recognize that something was going wrong when he saw a teenager sitting in the front window of his house across from ours smoking a very small pipe. The boy saw my husband outside and held his head close to the window and blew smoke toward him.

The next morning he left a nasty note on our front steps with a one-finger salute drawn on it. My husband confronted the boy who, of course, denied he had left it. Denial and anger are an integral part of beginning drug use. Paul (fictional name) was leaning up against his car and my husband took hold of his denim jacket and lifted the kid onto the hood of the car. I was panicked and told my husband to take his hands off him. A crowd of neighbors had gathered and were quieting me, saying, “Joyce just let him be, Paul needs that discipline.” There was no confrontation except for “words” mainly.

My husband then went directly to the boy’s home and spoke to his mother, a widow, who was a single mother of two boys. Before my husband got out much more than “I’m sorry,” she wrapped her arms around him and said, “Thank you, I’m losing control over him. Maybe this will help.” My husband gave her our phone number. Paul graduated from a prestigious high school, got an engineering degree and married.

Paul later came to see me and said, “You were right Mrs. Nalepka. I’ve lost my short term memory and had to tape all my college classes to be able to remember what the professors were saying.” Paul died very young of cancer.

Another teen nearby was arrested for dealing marijuana and Quaaludes. He spent a lot of time fishing with us or playing in our front yard. When I heard of the arrest, I was heartbroken. I called him in and told him what I knew. He became very embarrassed and angry. I told him he had my phone and could call me any time and I would help him but he could not be with our boys.

In a few weeks, the call came. He had six tickets to a rock concert and no one to drive him. He would like to take our boys and me—if I’d drive. It took some convincing; however, my husband relented. Within 30 minutes, you could not see across the professional basketball arena. I demanded his money back and we left.

That evening sent me into parental shock. I knew I had to become active or my own kids and all their friends would be surrounded by this behavior at school, and everywhere they went.

I visited a nearby record store that had a huge display of drug paraphernalia. It was within walking distance of my home. I took another stay-at-home Mom back to the store with me and we purchased two grocery bags of various types of paraphernalia. We showed it to the Montgomery County, Md. school board. We sent out a press release and the hearing room was packed. Soon, we were on all the local radio and TV shows and the drug culture came out of the woodwork.

Legalization advocates were getting money from the paraphernalia industry, and, according to several police officers, drugs were being dealt out the back door. They were not happy that we were closing down their source of income.

McDonald's Get's The Message

Former Maryland Senator Charles Mathias and current Vice President Joseph Biden held hearings in Baltimore on the drug paraphernalia industry. The Paraphernalia Trade Association, PTA, came asking that the industry be spared. “After all, they pleaded, you can get paraphernalia anywhere. “Look at this,” said one, holding up a McDonald’s coffee stirring spoon, “This is the best cocaine spoon in town and it’s free with every cup of coffee at McDonalds.”

The hearing ended before I got my turn to testify. As I was driving home, I was searching to think of some way to counteract their statement. Then, I had an “Aha!” moment. McDonald'swould never want to be associated with drug paraphernalia. I ran to the phone. I found the number and asked for the president, Ed Schmidt. His assistant was on vacation and the young woman replacing her didn’t realize, I guess, that he didn’t take everyone’s call and she put me through.

I started to tell him what was happening and he asked, “What do you want from me?” I said, “The drug paraphernalia industry says your tiny spoon-shaped coffee stirrer is being used as a cocaine spoon.” Again, he asked, “What do you want me to do?”

“I’m testifying before the U.S. Senate tomorrow," I answered. “I want you to say you’ll redesign the spoon and allow me to go back to the Senate hearing and announce that you don’t want to have your company associated with drug paraphernalia.”

He quickly asked, “Do you know we have 4,500 stores?”

I said, “I’m more interested in how many children you have.” He told me and I said, “Well, would you consider doing this for them and for my kids and America’s kids?”

He replied, “Can you call me back in 20 minutes?”

I, of course did, and when the young lady answered, she said, “I’m sorry Mr. Schmidt is out of the country.” Obviously, she’d gotten some quick training. I convinced her that he had asked me to call back so she put me through.

Schmidt said, “We’ll do it.” I asked if I could send out a press release and he agreed. I hurried home, set up my ironing board, and my typewriter (there were no computers yet) and off it went. We got responses from around the world. It didn’t stop the drug epidemic but it left a large imprint that responsible businesses were ready to help. Legalization advocates from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Norml, and other groups were livid.

They would sit behind us when we testified in state legislatures or the U.S. Congress and call us names while we spoke. They’d ask us questions like, “What’s next? Are you going to ban swizzle sticks and shot glasses?” The chiding came from print as well as electronic media.

In February, 1979, Keith Stroup, founder of Norml, and an integral part of the legalization movement who was furious that we were closing drug paraphernalia or “head” shops spoke to students at Emory University and told them:

“We are going to get marijuana reclassified medically. If we do that, we’ll be using the issue as a red hearing to give marijuana a good name. That’s our way of getting to them, indirectly, just like the paraphernalia laws are their way of getting to us.”

They started their campaign to convince Americans that this noxious weed was somehow “medicine.” They took their case against the DEA before the United States Court of Appeals. The case was decided by a three-judge panel.

The Feb. 18, 1994 decision read: “….with one exception, none of these (doctors) could identify under oath the scientific studies they swore they relied on. Only one had enough knowledge to discuss the scientific technicalities involved. Eventually, each one admitted he was basing his opinion on anecdotal evidence, on stories he heard from pations and on his own impressions about the drug ... For the foregoing reasons, the petitions for review are Denied."

I later organized over 60 members of a friend-of-the-court list from across America that supported two additional cases; United States vs. Oakland Cannabis Buyers” Cooperative (U.S. Supreme Court); and Raich vs. Gonzales (U.S. Court of Appeals). Both cases were ruled for our side.

Of course, the strongest case against the idea of so-called medical marijuana is the fact that the Federal Drug Administration is the only agency that can approve drug products. The FDA official statement is: “The FDA has not approved smoked-marijuana for any condition or disease indication.”

However, the beat goes on.

In the beginning, neither side had any money. We were pretty much working as volunteers using our own money. Now, the tide has changed. The legalization advocates have recruited multi-billionaire donors.

Their focus is on drug legalization.

Our most difficult task in educating the public in the way we should is our side’s lack of funds. It seems no one wants to fund “prevention.” And, believe me, we’ve tried. We’ve applied to a “Who’s Who” of American businesses, organizations, and individuals. We’ve shown we can do the job with funding. In fact, the SAMSHA gave us credit for reducing drug use by 50 percent during the time we had staff and funding.

We get lots of “Keep up the good work.” comments and pats on the back. Given the extent of the drug epidemic, it will take millions to beat it back.

The brightest star during this whole fight has been the help we received from former First Lady, Nancy Reagan who, in the 80’s, opened the White House doors and her pockets as well as her time. She always spoke at our national conferences and encouraged the parents and kids who came.

Sadly, today, the marijuana available to young people is, often much more potent than it was in the 70’s. Former Health & Human Services Secretary Joseph Califano estimates as much as 175-percent more potent.

Doing research for my recent testimony against so-called medical marijuana, I discovered more than 18 nations, including our own, that link this highly potent marijuana, called “skunk” to depression, psychosis and schizophrenia. There are more than 116,000 young people in treatment for marijuana.

We have decided that, from now on, any state legislator who introduces medical-marijuana bills, or lobbies for them or, any governor who signs these bills---retroactively—will receive a “2010 Skunk Award.” New Jersey Governor received the first one for having signed a pro-pot bill the day he left office. Three Maryland legislators were given one this session.

Marijuana is a very dangerous drug and we will not quit until people get the message.

Finally, we ask that the media, both print and electronic, take responsibility for informing the public of the dangers of marijuana and all drug use.

We commend the British newspaper, "The Independent", for its apology to citizens there. It apologized for having pushed to get marijuana in the U.K. decriminalized and the Parliament listened. The article, "Cannabis: An Apology, states, “If only we had known then what we know now about the dangers of marijuana!”

Mrs. Reagan has told us, “You can’t let up now. It is essential that you set the tone for other parents by creating an intolerant attitude about drugs in this country. And it is essential that you push the issue to the point of making people feel uncomfortable ... indifference is not an option. For the sake of all our children, I implore each of you to be ever more unyielding and inflexible as you continue your crusade against drugs."