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Reform Global Drug Policy

 
 
UN Headquarters, New York

Our new coalition is pressing for a range of reforms to international drug policy, including the prioritizing of human rights, public health, economic development, access to medicines, security, and the revision of the UN drug control conventions to eliminate the conflict that has emerged between treaty language and legalization of marijuana or other drugs in UN member states.

The statement linked here was signed by over 100 organizations, including major ones like the ACLU and Human Rights Watch. It argues that in cases of irreconcilable conflict, nations' obligations under the human rights treaties, which are enshrined as fundamental in the United Nations Charter, take precedence over provisions of the drug control treaties. The statement calls for a range of improvements to policies; for the UN to appoint a "Committee of Experts" to study the topic of drug treaty reform; and calls on the Obama administration to harmonize its foreign policy on drugs with its domestic policies by providing leadership at the UN to make that happen.

We continue to accept signatories for this statement. To do so, please email David Borden at borden@drcnet.org with your organization's name, a sentence indicating that the organization endorses the sign-on statement, and your position within the organization.

Note that we have also circulated a sign-on letter opposing the death penalty for drug convictions. Information on this appears below.


Release: Major Groups Call for UN to Respect Countries That Legalize Marijuana or Other Drugs (5/5/15)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 5, 2015

CONTACT: David Borden, borden@drcnet.org

Major Groups Call for UN to Respect Countries That Legalize Marijuana or Other Drugs

Human Rights Should Take Priority Over Drug Enforcement, New Letter Says

NEW YORK, NY – As the United Nations prepares for the first comprehensive review of global responses to drug problems in nearly two decades, a broad coalition of more than 100 organizations is pushing for the international body to respect countries that move away from prohibition.

"Existing US and global drug control policies that heavily emphasize criminalization of drug use, possession, production and distribution are inconsistent with international human rights standards and have contributed to serious human rights violations," the groups write in a new letter being released today.

Groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, Global Exchange, Drug Policy Alliance and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights are among the signatories. Also notable are a number of organizations devoted to health policy and AIDS services.

The letter's release is timed to a United Nations "High-Level Thematic Debate on the World Drug Problem" taking place in New York on Thursday, May 7, in preparation for a UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) scheduled for April 2016. Advocates believe that countries should take the UNGASS as an opportunity to pursue a range of reforms to global drug policy, including revising provisions of the UN Drug Conventions that threaten to stand in the way of reform. The Obama administration has taken the stance that countries should be free to pursue different kinds of systems under the treaties – including legalization – but has also opposed treaty reform, a stance which advocates have questioned.

"The administration's call to respect countries' right to try regulation rather than prohibition is a positive step for drug policy, as are other reforms the US has sought internationally," said David Borden, executive director of StoptheDrugWar.org, who coordinated the sign-on letter. "But it doesn't make sense to oppose having a discussion within the UN about modernizing the treaties to reflect that."

The coalition has called for the UN to appoint a "Committee of Experts" to study treaty reform, a common UN procedure for addressing issues of interest.

To date, four US states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis, as has the nation of Uruguay. Many other countries have decriminalized possession of certain drugs or have implemented harm reduction measures like syringe exchange programs. While the UN's drug enforcement body has warned that some of these policies may violate the treaties, the push for reform doesn't appear to be slowing anytime soon.

The new letter calls for revising the treaties, and says that in the meanwhile "in case of irreconcilable conflict, human rights principles, which lie at the core of the United Nations charter, should take priority over provisions of the drug conventions."  Human rights concerns may require shifting to drug control systems that aren't based on prohibition, the statement suggests. "Accommodating… experiments… with legalization and regulation of internationally controlled substances may require that the UN drug conventions are interpreted in light of countries' international human rights and other obligations."

Although marijuana legalization is a major factor driving the international drug debate, another is the impact the illicit drug trade has in Latin America, where violence and related criminal problems associated with the trade exceed that suffered in other regions.

John Walsh, senior associate at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), said, "Some Latin American leaders are now openly questioning the global drug prohibition regime, because of the destruction caused by criminal organizations fueled by enormous drug trade profits. Meanwhile, the US is undergoing important shifts in its own domestic policy, with the Obama administration wisely accommodating states that are legalizing and regulating cannabis. This expands the political space for other countries as well." Walsh is the coauthor of "Marijuana Legalization is an Opportunity to Modernize International Drug Treaties," co-published by WOLA and The Brookings Institution.

Advocates also warn that flexibility, as called for by the State Department, shouldn't be used to justify human rights violations in any country, such as the death penalty for nonviolent offenses or the banning of life-saving public health interventions like syringe exchange or opioid substitution therapy. "Prohibition has been a public health and human rights disaster," said Charles King, CEO of the US's largest community-based AIDS service organization, Housing Works. "That's why citizens around the world are calling for – and in some cases enacting – forward-thinking reforms that move away from criminalization and toward regulation and control. US and UN agencies should stop trying to cut off the treaty reform discussion and encourage a truly open debate instead."

The full text of the letter and list of signatories are online at http://stopthedrugwar.org/un.

StoptheDrugWar.org works for an end to drug prohibition worldwide, and an end to the "drug war" in its current form. We believe that much of the harm commonly attributed to "drugs" is really the result of placing drugs in a criminal environment. We believe the global drug war has fueled violence, civil instability and public health crises; and that the currently prevalent arrest- and punishment-based policies toward drugs are unjust.

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Telephone TownHall Meeting on Drug Education, with Dr. Carl Hart and the Drug Policy Alliance

Protecting Our Children: How Drug Education Is Failing Our Kids and What We Need To Do About It

A Telephone TownHall Meeting Hosted by the Drug Policy Alliance, Thursday, May 14, 1:00-2:00pm EST

Featuring: Dr. Carl Hart, Associated Professor, Columbia University and Research Scientist, New York State Psychiatric Institute, in conversation with asha bandele, Director Advocacy Grants Program, Drug Policy Alliance.

Visit http://bit.ly/DrCarlHart to RSVP. Space is limited. Audience participation is encouraged.

Scholarships Available for 2015 International Drug Policy Reform Conference

vigil at 2009 conference, Albuquerque
Financial assistance is available for individuals wishing to attend the 2015 International Drug Policy Reform Conference, taking place in the Washington, DC metro area from November 18-21. Visit http://www.reformconference.org/registration/scholarships to apply -- deadline is May 22. Note that the page has separate sections for applicants from the US, and applicants from other countries.

The International Drug Policy Reform Conference is a biennial event that brings together people from around the world who believe that the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. It brings together over 1,000 attendees representing 30 different countries.

This year attendees will have the opportunity to spend three days interacting with people committed to finding alternatives to the war on drugs while participating in sessions given by leading experts from around the world. Don't miss the opportunity to be a part of this event.

Visit http://www.reformconference.org to learn more about the Reform Conference.

Would You Give Up a Gallon of Gas a Month to End the Drug War?

 

click here to donate!

(If you have donated to our organization previously, please click here.)

Chronicle editor Phil Smith
receives the Brecher Award

Donations to our educational wing are tax-deductible! (Non-deductible donations support our lobbying work.)

"The Media and Drugs -- A Long Way Still to Go" -- David Borden discusses why we still can't rely on the media to get drug policy right.

Read the latest Drug War Chronicle!

Click here to read more about our organization's work and history of advocacy and public education.

 

Stopping the Drug War Means Winning the Information War.

As a subscriber to StoptheDrugWar.org, you know that this is an exciting and critical time for those who believe that prohibition and the global drug war in its current form need to end.

You're learning about the state-level revolt against federal marijuana laws, how the prerogatives of the drug war corrupt local police departments, and the real, nuanced policy story behind the headlines.

Stories are important. With each one we tell, we chip away at the prohibitionists' decades-long stranglehold on the drug policy debate. Things are starting to change. And we need your help to keep the momentum.

Why It's Critical to Support our "Unfinished Business" Campaign Today.

In an era where so much of the national debate is still framed by prohibition-based thinking, our small, dedicated and passionate staff keep anti-prohibitionists on the cutting edge of legislation and policy. Our platform serves as a vital information source for reform efforts -- locally, nationally, and globally -- and amplifies their efforts for audiences they couldn't have hoped to reach otherwise. Our mission to provide the best information available on the global drug war and its costs is critical to the national and global efforts to end it.

But we need your help to keep going strong in 2014. You can help our small and prolific team of experts pay their bills so they can stay focused on the great content that brings light to critical prohibition issues.

The mainstream media has been a depressingly dependable source of fear-based misinformation in the drug debate, predictably amplifying the talking points of those whose livelihoods depend on the expansion of the wasteful, corrupt and unjust global drug war.

That's why it's the duty of reformers to fund and make their own media -- a drumbeat that sounds clear and true against the fear and misinformation, turning a few more heads every year and slowly normalizing rational debate.

 

Testimonial

"Oaksterdam University has long enjoyed sharing the information compiled by Drug War Chronicle with students. It is simply one of the most comprehensive sources. Its web site and communications are a cornerstone of our Political Science department, and provide important lessons for anyone involved with Cannabusiness or drug policy reform." — Dale Sky Jones, Executive Chancellor, Oaksterdam University

For $3.49 a Month -- About the Price of One Gallon of Gas -- You Can Fuel our Efforts and Keep Our Editorial Staff Working on the Drug War's Biggest Stories.

We ask that you support our mission by authorizing a recurring monthly gift of $3.49. It's easy, secure, and will keep our talented writing and policy team focused on the issues that we all care about—and hope more people will care about as the drumbeat builds.

Advancing information, research and informed argument in the national debate is critical to not just marijuana legalization, but ending the drug war on all fronts. America is at a crossroads. And so is StopTheDrugWar.org. Will you give up one gallon of gas to help us keep fighting the good fight in 2014?

Yes! I Can Give Up a Gallon of Gas a Month to Keep StopTheDrugWar.org's Writers Working.

Watch Drug War Chronicle editor Phil Smith's award acceptance speech at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Denver last October:

Human Rights Watch on Coerced Guilty Pleas in US Drug Cases

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A report from Human Rights Watch released this morning demonstrates the corruption of justice that mandatory minimum sentencing has brought about. According to "An Offer You Can't Refuse: How US Federal Prosecutors Force Defendants to Plead Guilty," prosecutors commonly force drug defendants to plead to lengthy mandatory sentences in order to avoid losing their entire lives. Jamie Fellner of HRW writes:

"Prosecutors give drug defendants a so-called choice -- in the most egregious cases, the choice can be to plead guilty to 10 years, or risk life without parole by going to trial," said Jamie Fellner, senior advisor to the US Program at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. "Prosecutors make offers few drug defendants can refuse. This is coercion pure and simple."
 

In one case cited, Sandra Avery, a small-time drug dealer, declined to plea to 10 years for possession of 50 grams of crack with intent to deliver. Prior convictions she had for simple drug possession triggered a sentencing enhancement, at the prosecutor's behest, and Avery was sentenced to life without parole.

I think that very clearly constitutes a human rights violation, and we need to take this kind of power away from the officials who perpetrate such violations. One way to do that is by repealing mandatory minimum sentencing. There is a real chance of doing that, for the first time in a very long time, as a recent article we published shows. More on this coming soon.

Missouri Cannabis Conference This Weekend!

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ShowMe-Cannabis logo (show-mecannabis.com)
Show-Me Cannabis and Missouri NORML are hosting their fall 2013 statewide Cannabis Policy Conference for the Show-Me state, this Saturday in Kansas City. There are other events too, one of them a happy hour fundraiser TONIGHT with LEAP's Neill Franklin. Visit http://show-mecannabis.com/events for more info.

Also click here for one of the (many) reasons this is important.

Location: 
208 W. 19th St.
Kansas City, MO 64108
United States

Perspectives on the Denver "420" Disruption

Denver 420 rally, while it lasted (facebook.com/pages/420-Rally/104447806260934)
Yesterday's historic "420" rally in Denver, the first since Colorado voted to legalize marijuana last fall, was marred and cut short by violence. Two unidentified gunmen shot and wounded three people -- two attendees were shot in the leg and were rushed to a nearby hospital with "non-life-threatening-injuries," and a teen was grazed by a bullet and walked there, according to the Denver Post. Attendees fled the scene, and the remainder of the event as well a smaller one planned for today were canceled.

It was not the kind of day those three people or their friends had planned, and that's the most important thing to keep in mind. It was also not the kind of day that thousands attending including many who traveled from afar had planned either. It's lucky there were no trampling injuries, at least no serious ones, apparently.

Without forgetting what's most important -- the people most directly affected -- it's also worth noting that this is obviously not the kind of headline that legalization advocates wanted. The story had the top spot on Google News for a time last night, and continues to hold front page placement as I write this. That's an unfortunate accomplishment, particularly after the grim and violent week we just lived through. But does it hurt the cause?

After looking through news reports, I don't think so. The only criticism of the idea of the rally was from a Colorado anti-marijuana group, appearing well toward the end of the article. Most of it was sympathetic reporting about the victims, about organizers cooperating with police, police looking for information on the suspects, who the musical acts were, how police even before Amendment 64 passed had focused on crowd safety rather than marijuana enforcement during Denver's 420 events. I have not yet seen any quotes suggesting that marijuana use had any connection to the violence, though I've not done an exhaustive search.

Of course there's an opportunity cost from this unfortunate story replacing the story we'd hoped for of legal marijuana becoming a mainstream, accepted reality. And it's hard to know whether the coverage reflects maturation on the part of the media's treatment of the marijuana issue, vs. the violence forcing things into perspective. But I lean toward the former, and there's some comfort from seeing marijuana reformers and public safety personnel so clearly on the same side. At least that's how it looks from a distance. Our movement is part of larger society, and we are vulnerable to all the same dangers.

Let's hope the victims' injuries are no worse than reported, and for their swift recovery.

The International Drug Policy Reform Conference, Denver, October 2013

vigil outside Albuquerque Convention Center, 2009 drug policy reform conference
The International Drug Policy Reform Conference is a biennial event that brings together people from around the world who believe that the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. It brings together over 1,000 attendees representing 30 different countries.

StoptheDrugWar.org is a partner in this year's conference, which will take place October 23-26 in Denver, Colorado, as officials craft the state's implementation plan for legal marijuana under Amendment 64. Attendees will have the opportunity to spend three days interacting with people committed to finding alternatives to the war on drugs -- marijuana legalization and many other issues in drug policy -- while participating in sessions given by leading experts from around the world.

Here are what some attendees had to say about the 2011 conference:

  • "The International Drug Reform Conference was, by far, one of the most eye opening experiences of my life... It felt as if I were at the epicenter of the most conscious people on the planet."
  • "Every workshop that I attended had excellent presenters and panelists. I was extremely pleased to once again attend the 2011 Reform Conference. It was more diverse than ever and very inclusive of issues that I support. See you in Denver!"
  • "The Drug Policy Alliance conference is an educational opportunity that every responsible individual should experience -- regardless of your position on the issues."
  • "Every two years I look forward to the International Drug Policy Reform Conference, where I know I'll get a chance to hear from, and speak with some of the brightest minds in the drug policy reform movement."
  • "If you think the drug war has failed our country and harmed countries like Mexico and you want to do something about it, this is the conference to be at."

Visit http://www.reformconference.org for further information.

Denver, CO
United States

How People Are Using Drug War Chronicle

A few of the testimonials we received this year -- and reasons to support our work with a donation!

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Drug War Chronicle is one of the first resources I suggest to new students getting involved in the drug policy reform movement. There's nothing else out there that covers a wider variety of drug war issues each week. SSDP loves Drug War Chronicle, keep up the great work!
-Stacia Cosner, Associate Director, Students for Sensible Drug Policy

As part of a small staff without any single staff member devoted to research and policy, the Drug War Chronicle is one of the most useful resources I have to stay on top of important developments across the country. I direct a nationwide speakers bureau, and whenever I receive a request from a state I'm not familiar with, one of the first things I do is search my Drug War Chronicle email folder to get a clear summary of the latest updates from that state. Then I am able to confidently bring the speaker up-to-date and help him/her prepare to do a talk that is not only persuasive and credible, but also informed on the current local context, thanks to the DWC. If I didn't have the DWC I'd have to do endless online research and still never be quite sure if what I have is up-to-date. We also encourage all of our speakers to subscribe to stay on top of the most important updates on a weekly basis.-Shaleen Title, Speakers Bureau Director, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Drug War Chronicle has, for years, provided a vital and unparalleled source of rational, fact based analysis on the US Drug War for readers in the UK and Europe. Congratulations to the team are fully deserved; when the Drug war ends, the role of the Chronicle in its downfall will not be forgotten.
- Steve Rolles, Senior Policy Analyst, Transform Drug Policy Foundation

On behalf of California NORML, I strongly recommend the Drug War Chronicle. DWC consistently provides the most comprehensive, reliable, in-depth coverage of drug issues for the reform community. When Phil Smith calls me, I know that he will accurately report what I have said. DWC is a valuable resource, and I often consult its archives for background research on issues of interest.
- Dale Gieringer, Director, California NORML

Oaksterdam University has long enjoyed sharing the information compiled by Drug War Chronicle with students of the History of Cannabis and Marijuana Prohibition. DWT excerpts are informative and helpful to our Legal, Politics & History classes, as well as Civics, Dispensary Management and Operations, and Advocacy courses. One of the most important services we provide is the ability to bridge to sources of good information, and I have long considered you one of our vital resources. It is simply one of the most comprehensive sources I direct my students towards. Your website and communications are a cornerstone of our Political Science department, and provide important lessons for anyone involved with Cannabusiness or drug policy reform.
- Dale Sky Jones, Executive Chancellor, Oaksterdam University

The West Coast Leaf always looks to the Drug War Chronicle to help us determine the most important stories for our newspaper. Its in-depth coverage is top-notch, providing a well-rounded perspective on the news, along with quotes from drug policy's doers and shakers. At times, we use the stories as well (with all due credit) so the impact of the Chronicle is amplified in print edition. It's a vital resource in activating the masses with relevant information needed to make reform happen.
- Mikki Norris, Publisher and Managing Editor of the West Coast Leaf

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