By Dion Markgraaff
The 2011 International Drug Policy Reform Conference held in downtown Los Angles this past November was the biggest and best meeting of freedom fighters in this epic ongoing â€œwar on drugs.â€ The bi-annual gathering of peacemakers in this war came together for three days to renew their common agenda of ending the largest war of the modern era, in terms of length of time, cost, and damage. Over 1200 people from around the globe and representatives from every state in the U.S. convened to discuss, debate, and inform one another about different undertakings and strategies to end and reduce the harmful consequences of this world war.
This is a conference for activists, cops, academics, health officials, ex-cons, unions, politicians, students, and anyone who wants to get plugged into making changes in drug policy. This meeting of the minds concerned all drugs (legal and illegal), how society handles them, and the impact of the different policies. There was a main room with booths from different organizations, like NORML, MPP (Marijuana Policy Project), LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition), ASA (Americans for Safe Access), SSDP (Students for Sensible Drug Policy) and more.
The main information was in the many presentations on different strategies with different ideas and perceptions. These ongoing forms were punctuated by speeches and presentations in a massive main hall by some excellent and inspirational people. There were incredibly impressive speakers led by Californiaâ€™s Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, Former New Mexico Governor and current U.S. Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson, travel writer Rick Steves, California NAACP Head Alice Huffman, and Mexican movement leader and poet Javier Sicilia. In addition, Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines skyped into the conference on big screens to condemn the war on drugs and thanked everyone for their own personal efforts to make changes in drug policy.
Whatâ€™s up with California Cannabis Initiatives in 2012?
There were excellent panel discussions on various California cannabis initiatives: three legalization efforts, one increasing the amount decriminalized, and one focused on establishing medical cannabis regulations. There were representatives there to discuss each otherâ€™s strengths and weaknesses. However, everyone agreed that the biggest issue facing all of the proposed initiatives was the lack of money. The large donors of years past are not impressed with the polling numbers being low and the grassroots people being too divided, unorganized, and poor.
The Regulate Marijuana Like Wine initiative would end cannabis prohibition and set up a system of regulated distribution. It mandates the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to set up regulations for sales by 2013. The Repeal Cannabis Prohibition Act would repeal all of the California laws against cannabis with an obligation for the government to create a â€œCalifornia Cannabis Commissionâ€ to set up a system to regulate cannabis commerce. Interestingly, the government would have to act to set up this system within 6 months or there would be no regulation of cannabis in California at all. A different initiative, Marijuana Penalties Act, would decriminalize cannabis for everyone up to 2 ounces (currently 1 ounce). The California Economic, Environmental, Hemp Restoration Act of 2012, a project of the Budget Economic Environmental Protection Alliance, would legalize industrial hemp, medical cannabis, and recreational cannabis for people 21 and over. This initiative is still in the drafting phase. The Proposition 19 organization has morphed into the California Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform and is now advocating an initiative to regulate medical cannabis in the state.
There is more hope for legalization efforts in the states of Colorado and Washington. Most of the leaders in the cannabis community were at the conference to add valuable observations from their work in the field, elevating the level of the discussions. A new development in the evolution of the cannabis revolution was the addition of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) cannabis division, which was led by Dan Rush. This national union seems to be bringing a new element to the fight for cannabis with professionalism and the uniting power of the communityâ€™s collective strength.
We all live in this illogical world war, but news from the frontlines of the â€œwar on drugsâ€ is good, as the arc of truth is still bending towards the light. One of the main speakerâ€™s most profound observations was that this struggle for our human rights is a marathon, not a sprint. Can a lie be reformed? No! The 2011 International Drug Policy Reform Conference was more of a meeting for a greatly needed revolution.