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YOU Are Needed in Tomorrow's Global Day of Action for Drug Reform!

Tomorrow, Friday, June 26, join with organizations around the world in the annual "Support. Don't Punish" Global Day of Action. If you are in Washington, DC please demonstrate with us at the US State Department and the White House Friday morning!

Support Don't Punish is an international advocacy campaign intended to raise awareness of the harms being caused by the war on drugs. The campaign aims to promote drug policies that respect human rights and protect public health, to change laws and policies that impede access to harm reduction interventions and other evidence-based services, and to end the criminalization of people who use drugs. Visit for further information about the campaign. June 26 is also the United Nations' International Day Against Drug Abuse and Trafficking, and Support Don't Punish is the reform movement's global response.

Whether you live near an event location or not, or have to time to get to one, there are important ways that you can contribute to the Day of Action:

selection from the 2014 Support Don't Punish photo project

  1. Promote Support. Don't Punish. on social media. A social media guide for the Day of Action is online here. It includes actions you can take both today and tomorrow.
  2. Participate in the interactive Photo Project. This could be as simple as printing out the Support. Don't Punish. sign and taking a picture with it and sending in, or you can get a group together or do something creative. Click on the link to view examples, and please send us copies of your photos too.
  3. Attend an event -- especially ours here in Washington! There's another demonstration outside the UN in New York, and there's a full global list of all announced events published here.
  4. Sign up today for the Support. Don't Punish. "Thunderclap" -- a web site that you can authorize to post a Support. Don't Punish. message to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. All participants' messages will be posted by Thunderclap at the same time tomorrow, to make a splash and get people's attention.

Click here for the latest update from the Support. Don't Punish. campaign, and visit for further information.

Telephone Town Hall with "Orange Is the New Black" Author Piper Kerman, June 29
Piper Kerman
Mass Incarceration: A Conversation With Piper Kerman, Author of "Orange Is the New Black" -- a Telephone Town Hall Meeting Hosted by the Drug Policy Alliance -- Monday, June 29, 1:00-2:00pm ET.

Piper Kerman, author, advocate, and professor, in conversation with asha bandele, Director, Advocacy Grants Progra, Drug Policy Alliance. Visit to RSVP -- space is limited. Audience participation is encouraged.

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 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)


CONTACT: David Borden,

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, 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 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 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 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 to learn more about the Reform Conference.

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


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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, 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.



"Hell yes I read you guys... keep it up. I tell everyone I know about your site." — an enthusiastic member in Arkansas

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 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'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
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!
ShowMe-Cannabis logo (
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 for more info.

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

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

Perspectives on the Denver "420" Disruption

Denver 420 rally, while it lasted (
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.

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