The Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) conference in Washington, DC saw its third and final day, and it was a rousing weekend for drug reformers. About 300 student activists from around the country showed up for a weekend of lobbying, strategizing, and setting the direction of the organization for the near term. The students had the opportunity to hear from many of the most prominent leaders of the drug reform movement, including Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, Allen St. Pierre of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Steph Sherer of the medical marijuana defense group Americans for Safe Access, and representatives of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). Sadly, MPP executive director Rob Kampia, the man behind the Nevada marijuana tax and regulate initiative, was taken ill and unable to attend. Media figures Bill Press, an MSNBC commentator, and Chicago Sun-Times columnist Clarence Page also packed the auditorium for their Saturday discussion of the role of the media in perpetuating prohibition. Yours truly participated in a panel on international dimensions of US drug policy. With rigorous academics like UCLA professor Mark Kleiman and the University of Maryland's Peter Reuter joining me and Sanho Tree of the Institute for Policy Studies, one would have thought that some sparks would have flown, but that was not the case. After I critiqued US policy in Afghanistan -- you can have your war on terror or you can have your war on drugs, but you can't have both -- and Tree described in grim detail the horrendous results of US coca eradication efforts in the Andes, Kleiman and Reuter both concurred that US efforts to ameloriate its "drug problem" by taking action overseas is an exercise in futility. As Kleiman put it, if you have to choose between the continued survival of the Karzai government in Afghanistan and ignoring the UN conventions on drug trafficking, the answer is easy. A somewhat surprising consensus, that. Much more happened at the conference, of course, and we will be covering it in some detail in this week's Drug War Chronicle.
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