Mothers of Dissension

By Dirk Hanson 05/07/11

A grieving group of moms plans to spend Mother's Day marching against the War on Drugs.

Mothers with attitude.
Photo via dinkesbintan

It's a little known fact today, but back in the '30s a group of angry American mothers played a crucial role in ending Prohibition. It wasn’t that they were pro-booze—far from it. Instead they were opposed to the problems ushered in during the Prohibition era---from the outburst of gangland violence to the growth of organized and police corruption.

Sound vaguely familiar? Today, a group of mothers is intent on sending a similar message to the nation on Mother’s Day: Stop the war on drugs. Are these moms pro-drug? Of course not. Mothers United to End the War on Drugs says in its mission statement: “We are building a movement to stop the stigmatization and criminalization of people who use drugs or who are addicted to drugs. We are urgently calling for health-oriented strategies and widespread drug policy reform in order to stop the irresponsible waste of dollars and resources, and the devastating loss of lives and liberty.”

Many of the moms who joined the movement have sons, daughters, or husbands who are in jail for various drug offenses, or dead from drug overdoses. The Fix asked Gretchen Burns Bergman, the group's director, what was planned for this year's protests. “For Mother's Day we are doing a national op-ed campaign” she said. “We’re also planning rallies and activities for June 17,” the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s declaration of a War on Drugs. As for the group’s motivation, Bergman said: “Mothers are speaking out against this silent but deadly war that has caused so many casualties and taken away so many basic human liberties. Like Moms in the 30's who were instrumental in ending alcohol prohibition, mothers are leading the charge to end the violence, mass incarceration and overdose deaths that are a result of current punitive drug policies."

Burns Bergman, who is Executive Director of the group’s umbrella organization—A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing)—also served in 2000 as State Chairperson for Proposition 36, which mandates treatment instead of incarceration in California.  In 2010, she helped start Mothers United to End the War on Drugs with a series of rallies across the state, including a massive rally at the State Capitol in Sacramento.

And we all know how much better things go if we just do what mom demands.

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]