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Our Political Approach

Drug policy reform is an issue that draws support from a wide range of the political spectrum. Since's founding we have sought common cause, cultivated friendships and forged alliances with good people of all kinds.

Other movements with which we traditionally align as part of the drug policy reform movement include civil liberties and civil rights, HIV/AIDS, criminal justice reform and human rights. Through our work on extrajudicial killings in the Philippine drug war, we now also engage extensively with global issues affecting events in that country, as part of this aligning with movements for democracy, international justice and countering disinformation.

Though the largest number of supporters for US reform efforts have been from the Democratic, liberal or progressive side, our movement has always had important supporters on the libertarian right or from other thinking conservatives. This political diversity is seen especially in sentencing reform, which routinely today gets identified as one of a few areas of active bipartisan cooperation. But we sometimes find support even for legalization efforts, and in other areas like human rights, ending police paramilitarization and due process.

We are in a time of special challenges. Intellectual deterioration on the political right has contributed to problems like racism, distrust of science, and Trumpist authoritarianism. Right-leaning communities today are principle targets of disinformation campaigns on matters like elections, the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change. Political discourse in such communities is often marked by resentments influencers have fostered against media, rival political movements, social justice advocates and others.

There are still responsible figures on the right, but they are fewer in number. We applaud their efforts to offer positive leadership within the compromised environment they have to contend with today. We value our continued friendships on the right, and work with responsible allies as we are able.

The political left has seen the rise of inspiring new movements for policing and criminal justice reform, particularly the Movement for Black Lives. This long-awaited awakening has expanded the window of what's possible. So has the energetic surging of the progressive movement.

These positive developments have also been accompanied by an increased degree of perceived tension between big picture goals and incremental reforms. Legislation that would reduce prison sentences, or which aims to reduce fatalities in police encounters, for example, sometimes prompts opposition from within progressive or radical circles who prefer bills that go further, or even prompts attacks on the advocates of the reforms. In drug policy reform, some organizations have opposed moving legislation to legitimize banking services for the marijuana industry, unless combined with measures promoting equity in ownership of cannabusinesses or other social justice measures.

These differences sometimes get cast as reflecting approaches taken by paid lobbyists who want to demonstrate progress to their supporters while maintaining good relationships with legislators, vs. the needs and views in communities actually affected by the injustices. Such claims, however, often mask what's more accurately understood as competition over strategy and influence within the affected communities.

We don't think people should be attacked for working to get people out of prison. We disagree with advocacy approaches that stand in the way of providing achievable relief to people facing sentencing hearings or serving unconscionably long prison sentences now, or of other ways to make people safer and relieve their suffering in the present.

Our experience, such as with the aforementioned drug conviction / student aid campaign, bears out our view that incremental reform is not inherently in tension with larger reform. Without viewing it in absolute terms, we adhere to the most prevalent view among advocates and in the political class, that smaller changes tend to make larger changes more likely. We see the ethical burden of proof as lying with those who argue the opposite to oppose the politics of the possible. Such proof, or short of it the ability to make sound judgment calls, requires rigorous analysis of the politics and legislative process in any specific issue at hand.