Background on DRCNet and Out from the Shadows

Out from the Shadows is a global series of conferences, connected with related efforts, to sharpen the call for repeal of drug prohibition and organize legalization supporters globally into a vigorous and visible movement.

Out from the Shadows has been convened by the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet), also known as DRCNet publishes the world's most widely read drug policy newsletter, reaching over 24,000 subscribers every week via our e-mail list. We are the organization that initiated the vigorous and high-profile campaign to repeal a US law that denies college financial aid to students because of drug convictions, and which enabled the launching of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, an organization with chapters on over 200 campuses; and we are the sponsors of the John W. Perry Scholarship Fund, providing financial assistance to help students losing aid under this law to stay in school. Of particular relevance to this conference project is that DRCNet is the largest drug policy reform organization in the world that formally and openly calls for an end to prohibition across the board.

DRCNet's first major partner in this effort is the Transnational Radical Party, an NGO and party working at the international level. TRP has offices in Rome, Brussels, Moscow and New York, and advocates on behalf of a broad range of issues relating to human rights, freedom and democracy within the major international institutions. Hosting us in Latin America are the newspaper Por Esto! and the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, both in the city of Mérida, capital of the Yucatan province of Mexico. Narco News (, the online newspaper reporting on the drug war and democracy from Latin America, has been a pivotal player in setting up our Mexican partnerships. We are also working with a wide range of European organizations, all of them members of the International Coalition of NGOs for a Just and Effective Drug Policy. A number of organizations in the United States, and a few in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, have signed on as well. We gratefully acknowledge the generosity of John Gilmore in providing initial funding for this campaign. We anticipate many organizations signing up as plans get further underway, particularly in Latin America, where we have just begun concerted outreach.

An initial Out from the Shadows conference was held at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium on October 15-16, 2002. The Out from the Shadows action plan includes the following initial main components:

Conference Series: Events to be held over the next 12 months in a variety of locations.

Global Summit: Tentatively in Miami, Florida, evocative as a major drug war and drug trafficking hub and located in close proximity to Latin America -- final decision on whether and where to hold this will be based on experiences with the first three.

Global Coalition: A partnership of organizations and individuals who are organized for the purpose of calling for an end to drug prohibition and advancing that cause. We see the coalition as being broadly inclusive, seeking membership in whatever respectable form it takes; for example, the conference coalition so far includes or is being discussed with NGOs, political parties, a newspaper, a needle exchange program, a web site publishing from an undisclosed location in Mexico and a variety of other organizations.

Political Network: A global organization of political and governmental officials, currently in the form of the Parliamentarians for Antiprohibitionist Action (PAA), a network that already boasts 65 members, mostly in the European Parliament, but also including members of national parliaments in Europe, Latin American and New Zealand. PAA members span a wide range of the political spectrum. The PAA is seeking to expand within and without Europe, and has agreed to be one of the primary organizers of the conference series.

These projects are all intended to serve as facets of one larger campaign, all connected privately and publicly and all contributing to the success of the whole. The conference series is the initial focal point for launching this long-term, global effort. In addition to these components, Out from the Shadows or the organizations working on it may in the long or even short term take on other endeavors as part of the global campaign to end drug prohibition. For example, the three initial major conferences may be supplemented by one or more press conferences in important locations such as London or Washington, DC. Petitions, creation of publications, lobbying at the UN or within national governments and direct actions are just a few of the possible grassroots activities that may be organized in the future. Out from the Shadows as described above is the beginning of a global campaign to fundamentally transform perception of drug policy and awaken mankind to the fundamental inappropriateness and devastating impact of drug prohibition.


Out from the Shadows seeks to elevate pro-legalization voices from within the ranks of elected officials, academics, columnists, judges, public health, civil society, opinion leaders of all kinds, gaining them an increased prominence in the public dialogue on drug policy (which among other things means media recognition); to build legalization movements in countries, continents and sectors of society in which they are currently weak or non-existent, and to build the anti-prohibition movement overall; to provide a venue for discussion of a range of legalization models; and to launch international and perhaps national campaigns aimed at current strategic needs in the legalization effort.

The leading short-term possibility for international political campaigning is an effort to amend or repeal the international drug conventions. Though nations may in theory withdraw from these treaties or supersede them via their national constitutions, in practice the conventions are a legal and political obstacle in the way of legalization, as well as a hindrance in some cases to partial drug policy reforms. However, other options need to be discussed, as the conventions may or may not be a feasible or pivotal target at this point in time.

Some but certainly not all possible options for topics at the conferences include: the harms of prohibition, enunciated by experts and representatives of strongly affected groups (minorities, public health, law, Latin American leaders, NGOs, etc.), covering a range of issues affected by prohibition; discussion of legalization models; discussion of partial reforms, including their benefits but particularly emphasizing their limitations; strategies for achieving legalization; and history of drug prohibition.


Out from the Shadows seeks literally to place prohibition and legalization on the world stage as an issue in contention. We seek to let the world know that we are here and we are strong and getting stronger. The media is a principle target for our message, but other targets include political officials, civil society organizations, think tanks, etc.

Participating Organizations (as of July 3, 2003)

ABRAÇO • Ale Yarok • Asociación Civil DRIS • Asociación Mexicana de Estudios del Cannabis • Asociación de Reducción de Daños de la Argentina • Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy • Centro de Investigación de la Comunicación Social • Centro de Mídia Independente Belo Horizonte • CocachasquiCommon Sense for Drug PolicyCriminal Justice Policy Foundation • DEBED vzw • DieCannabisKampagneDrug Policy AllianceDrug Reform Coordination NetworkDrolegDrug Policy Forum of California • Drug Users Advocacy Group of Amsterdam • EfficacyFamilies and Friends for Drug Law ReformForum DrogheFuoriluogo • Grupo Ekologiko Ayün • International Antiprohibitionist League • International Coalition of NGOs for Just and Effective Drug Policies • JES Rhein-Main • John Mordaunt Trust • Law Enforcement Against ProhibitionMild Green Media Centre • Movimiento Canábico de Perú • Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies • National Association for Public Health Policy • Netherlands Drug Policy Foundation • November Coalition • Parliamentarians for Antiprohibitionist Action • Por Esto! • Psicotropicus • ReconsiDer: Forum on Drug Policy • Red Latinoamericana de Reduccion de Daños • SOMA Associação Portuguesa Antiproibicionista • Students for Sensible Drug PolicyTransform - the Campaign for Effective Drug PolicyTransnational Radical PartyTrebach InstituteTri-State Drug Policy ForumUnitarian Universalists for Drug Policy ReformUniversidad Autónoma de YucatánVirginians Against Drug Violence