Advocates, doctors, lawyers, activists, treatment providers, law enforcement, students, educators and the formerly imprisoned. These are the people currently spending three days (November 12-14) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, attending the International Drug Policy Conference, a biennial meeting of like-minded drug reform advocates from all walks of life, including judges and state politicians. The key speakers include New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, former Foreign Minister of Mexico Jorge Castaneda, and California Assembly Member Tom Ammiano, who of course has introduced marijuana reform legislation in cash-strapped California. Richardson's state, New Mexico, has passed some remarkable legislation and is considered a bastion of reform, passing pioneering medicinal marijuana legislation as well as America's first Good Samaritan law, to combat deadly overdoses.
The conference's topics will include marijuana legalization, which has gotten a boost not only from Ammiano and revenue starved states, but also from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who welcomes the debate. Meanwhile San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome is running for governor of California in 2010 and favours taxing and regulating marijuana. A critical panel at the conference will feature experts proposing potential regulatory structures and discussing their effectiveness. Albuquerque provides the backdrop where immigration policy and drug policy reform collide, and that relationship will be discussed, including the drug war violence in the U.S. and Mexico. And innovative approaches which have occured outside of the U.S. will also be examined, such as clean and supervised injection sites, and even services which prescribe heroin to addicts in order for them to have an improved quality of life while cutting costs.
The conference is convening at the right time as more people recognize the need to shift to a public health model, as opposed to criminalization which provides more opportunities for criminals. Those from both the left and right, including Noam Chomsky, William F. Buckley Jr., Milton Friedman, George P. Schultz, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Howard Zinn all see the drug war as a failure and that it must end. With the combination of grassroots activism, medical marijuana laws and the economic crisis, America's national debate appears to be turning toward progression.
Cops and clergy condemn the war on drugs:
Democratic Senator Jim Webb advocates for the Blue Ribbon Commission to Study the Failed "Drug War":