“We who believe in freedom cannot rest, cannot rest. We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.” -- Rev. Edwin Sanders, Senior Servant, Metropolitan Interdenominational Church in Nashville, leading conference attendees in the Civil Rights Era hymn.
The three-day Drug Policy Alliance International Reform Conference has come to a close in Denver, Colorado. Reform leaders and activists from across the country and around the world gathered to learn from the experience of Colorado’s medical marijuana and marijuana legalization, with delegations from New Zealand, Africa, Latin America, South America, and Europe taking tours of some of Denver’s biggest industrial grows and medical marijuana dispensaries.
“In Portugal, we fight the illness, not the person who has the illness.” -- Dr. João Castel-Branco Goulão from Portugal’s Department of Health.
Americans learned from the experience of regulators and health officials from Portugal who explained their system of decriminalization of all personal amounts of drugs and the resulting harm reduction success in fighting addiction and crime. Guests from Mexico, Latin America and South America expressed the devastation North America’s prohibition of drugs has wrought on their families and homeland.
“So what’s this stain on a black world, when the ‘hood raised black boys and black girls? Before you pass judgment on us, Jasiri X gonna give you something to discuss.” -- Hip-Hop Artist Jasiri X from Pittsburgh.
African-Americans discussed the disproportionate impact of the war on drugs on their neighborhood and Hispanic Americans addressed how the war on drugs is a war on migrants. Republicans and Libertarians strategized about their place at the drug reform table and people of faith strategized about bringing the church into drug reform. Young people examined how legalization affects people under 21 and women told tales of child protective services kidnappings over medical marijuana.
"I will be dead if someone doesn't help me bring my child home!" -- Karen Garrison from Families Against Mandatory Minimums.
Every panel, roundtable, plenary, exhibit, film, tour and private conversation brought us all closer to ending the war on drugs, by using the most powerful weapons oppression’s ever faced: education and networking. There were former narcotics cops from LEAP talking with formerly incarcerated persons. Medical marijuana advocates from Arkansas met psychedelic pioneers from California while naloxone advocates from New Mexico met DanceSafe activists from Wisconsin. Nearly every aspect of global drug prohibition was considered and almost every demographic was represented.
"The fight for social justice isn't a sprint, it isn't even a marathon. It's a marathon relay race that never ends." -- Ira Glasser, former director of American Civil Liberties Union.
The Drug Policy Alliance International Reform Conference happens every two years and is next scheduled for Washington, DC in 2015. Will we be celebrating marijuana legalization wins in Uruguay, Alaska and Oregon? Will the second term of the Obama Administration lead to greater reforms in overall drug policy? Will Latin American and South American countries have rejected US-led prohibition? You’ll have to save up to attend and find out, but one thing’s for sure…
“I wanna get y’all ready people, because in two years, this is gonna be bigger, better, and hell yeah, a lot browner -- we’re going to the Chocolate City of Washington, DC!” -- Kassandra Frederique, Drug Policy Alliance, New York, NY