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International Drug Policy Conference in L.A. on 15 Year Anniversary of Prop 215

Sam Sabzehzar 2011-11-08 0 comments

Over a 1,000 experts, health professionals, elected officials, students, activists and law enforcement gathered in Los Angeles over the weekend for the 2011 International Drug Policy Reform Conference, hosted by the Drug Policy Alliance.

By Sam Sabzehzar  |  November 7, 2011

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom welcomes the conference attendees to California. (Photo credit:

The list could go on and on, and the who’s who in attendance was above and beyond as the International Drug Policy Reform Conference brought about the winds of change and other forces of nature as the largest event in conference history took place.

The conference was held at the Boneventure Hotel in L.A. the same weekend as the anniversary of California’s historic passage of Prop 215, which was celebrated at the Occupy Los Angeles encampment with city officials honoring Dennis Peron for his contribution to the plight of patients in their fight against AIDS and their safe access to cannabis.

The perfect storm of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and  those they seek a sense of forgiveness from as they waged a war on drugs on the very communities many of them grow up in, scientists, doctors, poets and politicians.

Republican Presidential candidate Gary Johnson told the conference attendees during the opening ceremonies that he would pardon all federal non-violent marijuana prisoner, and even endorsed the California initiative that calls for marijuana to be regulated like wine.

Sharing the stage with the republican candidate was California’s Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, a democrat, which was an example of how the conference would go, as political and social opposites can come to the same conclusion on a particular issue.

NAACP President Alice Huffman and DPA’s Ethan Nadelmann also spoke during the welcoming event, each bringing tears of sadness and joy, and Huffman, who had lost her sister earlier in the day, spoke to the spirit and integrity her sister had on this issue and how proud she is to finally be on the right side of history, dedicating her involvement in her sister’s honor.

Other key pillars to fight against prohibition include UFCW (the third largest union in the U.S.), LEAP,  and now that former ATF agents are blowing the whistle on the over-reaching policies and failed implementation of them, even a few federal and national security agents were in agreement, not speaking for their agencies, but for themselves.

There were roughly 75 different breakout sessions, meetings, screenings, and dialogues taking place throughout the four-day event, and comparisons to the Al Capone era of prohibition as a tactic in the war on drugs, though an utter failure, was a success at creating the capitol to participate in the system of capitalism and politics, much like we see today.

The drug war isn’t about ending drug use, it’s about controlling the supply and demand for drugs, including the distribution of them in all markets, legitimate of otherwise.

Javier Sicilia tells an audience during a panel that the number of murdered and displaced in Mexico due to drug prohibition matches the number of U.S. soldiers killed in the Vietnam War. Multiply that number times 3 and we see the real picture of those affected in the drug war.

With nearly as many people killed in Mexico during the drug war as Americans in Vietnam, more focus and attention to real solution rather than fiery rhetoric is beginning to take place in America, while many in America are seeking the guidance from countries like Portugal, who have taken a harm-reduction approach rather than criminalization approach, and have seen overwhelmingly positive results.

California NORML’s Dale Gieringer and All of Us or None’s Dorsey Nunn jointly received the Robert C. Randall Award.┬áRandall was the first federal medical cannabis patient who fought and won his right to use marijuana as a medicine, resulting in others who would join what was then the Investigational New Drug Program.

There are just four patients left alive today who were accepted into that program and who continue to receive federally-grown medical cannabis despite the federal position that there is no medicinal value in marijuana. Citing an international treaty, investigation into a Schedule I narcotic in the U.S. Controlled Substances Act can only move forward if the end result is likely to prove the substance to be dangerous. If the study is to prove the positive effects of an illicit substance the study will not be allowed to continue.

Panels relating to Portugal’s drug policy and how other European nations have chosen to deal with drug use, Latin America’s current escalation as U.S. allies in the war on drugs against their own people, and the obvious recognition of this failed yet financially rewarding tactic by the State, has the makings of not just a Ken Burns documentary, but an entire reality T.V. series.

New Jim Crow-type tactics aren’t the only way politicians (possibly considered to be people) are used by corporations (definitely considered people) to take on fighting the good folks who vote them into power.

For this reason, this year’s International Drug Policy Reform Conference, in Los Angeles of all places, bringing together Canada’s harm-reduction specialist Gabor Mate, Mexican poet and activist Javier Sicilia, LEAP’s Executive Director Neill Franklin, and even a U.S. Republican Presidential Candidate, Gary Johnson.