How did I shift from being “pro-drug war” to realizing that it was totally wrong? I watched people who were addicts being arrested, taken into custody for mere possession of an “illegal” drug, when in reality, they were being put into a cage for possessing something they may or may not be addicted to and were doing no one any harm, except perhaps their own self. I struggled with the idea that I was part of an organization that was punishing people, often times severely, for being addicted to something. Not only would we put them in a cage, we would oftentimes financially ruin them. Their cars were towed, they needed to find bond money to post if possible. More times than not, they would lose their jobs for not being able to show up at work, they had to spend thousands and thousands of dollars for legal representation, families were split up, homes were lost. It slowly began to weigh on my mind.
The following is a transcript of the testimony provided by Rev. Jamie Washam before the House Judiciary Committee of the Rhode Island General Assembly. Video of the testimony is available via YouTube. I am a pastor and minister of First Baptist Church in America, the church founded by Roger Williams in 1638, and I’m here in support of House Bill 5555. When Roger Williams founded Rhode Island, he initiated a lively experiment. He afforded legal protection for concepts that were seen as heretical at the time, which we now embrace as rights in a common and dignified society. In the 1633 colonial charter on display in this statehouse, Rhode Island was established as a place of religious liberty and freedom of conscience. It is in this spirit that I stand in reforming our existing drug policies.