Reflections on the International Drug Policy Reform Conference

Posted on | november 7, 2011 | No Comments

MexicoBlog Report: “And everyone in-between:” Reflections on the International Drug Policy Reform Conference, Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 3-5, 2011

People: white people, black people, brown people, Asian people, young people, old people and in-between people. The refrain of Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, in his opening-day speech, was “We are people who love drugs, people who hate drugs and everyong in-between. We are black and white and everyone in-between. We are gay and straight and everyone in-between.”

A thousand people gather for the biennial conference, from all over the U.S., some fifty people from Latin America, maybe ten or more from Mexico, a group from Brazil, another from Argentina, individuals from Chile, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic. A journalist from India. A young woman from Hanoi, Vietnam who is helping to organize drug users and get them services and their rights. Another from Indonesia.

A black man from North Carolina who was imprisoned for a drug offense, spent over three years in jail, got out, got his college degree and a law degree to do work with others who have been incarcerated to get their rights back. A white, upper middle class mother who got LSD for her dying daughter to relieve the pain. Another black man in the world’s longest dreadlocks who is a PH.D. psychologist and professor at Columbia University’s medical school, who does research on methamphetamine and reports there is no scientific evidence for it being more dangerous than other drugs.

A black woman who was jailed for drug use, told she might not be imprisoned again if she found a treatment program, found it and was then told she was a hopeless case, would never change and was sent back to prison. She now has organized and leads a group for formerly incarcerated people who seek to get back their rights as citizens. A white woman who leads a group to defend pregnant, drug-using woman from losing their children.

The kids from Mexico, in their twenties, smart, savy, articulate running drug education programs they have designed, one of whom travels the world talking to other young leaders as well as committees at the U.N. Other young kids, who feel they are getting too old to be youth leaders because they are twenty-six. (In our day, the ostensible cut-off for legitimacy was thirty.) Staffers from the DPA in the U.S., others from Canada, Colombia, and Lebanon. yes, a young woman from Lebanon!

State legislators from several states, and not just the blue ones, who are trying to do what they can to improve the handling of prison and drug issues, including an old Republican from Texas, a black woman from Florida and a woman lawyer from Indiana who said that in her efforts she feels like “someone trying to find the bathroom in the dark in a strange hotel room,” groping her way to find a path ahead.

A very British lady, Amanda Feilding, (yes, a real Lady, she is the Countess of Wemyss ) from Oxford, who is working with the House of Lords on a commission to look at drug policy.

One speaker says, “It’s all about people.” I am impressed with how smart, savy, articulate and committed to changing drug policy worldwide all these people are–old, young and in-between, black, white and in-between, Latin American, Asian, European, U.S.’ers and in-between.

AUTHOR: Reed Brundage
E-MAIL: Americas [at]


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