Drug Policy Alliance to Co-Host the 2007 International Drug Policy Reform Conference in New Orleans, December 5-8

Press Release December 3, 2007
Media Contact

Tony Newman at (646)335-5384 or Tommy McDonald at (646)335-2242

NEW ORLEANS–Why are police officers a growing voice calling for the end of the failed war on drugs? Can hurricane relief and rebuilding efforts be funded by cutting ineffective and wasteful drug war programs? Why are black men imprisoned for drug offenses at 13 times the rate of white men despite equal rates of drug use across races? Is methamphetamine really the new crack?

People will gather to answer these questions and many more at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference, in New Orleans, December 5-8. The conference, at the Astor Crowne Plaza – French Quarter (Corner of Bourbon & Canal), is organized by the Drug Policy Alliance and dozens of other organizations (see list of groups below). The Drug Policy Alliance is the nation’s leading organization working to end the war on drugs and promote new drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights.

In the past decade, voters and legislators have enacted more than 150 drug policy reforms on issues ranging from medical marijuana to racial profiling. Building on the momentum from these victories, almost 1,000 drug policy experts, health care and drug treatment professionals, elected officials and family and friends of drug war prisoners from around the country and across the world will gather to promote alternatives to the failed war on drugs.

There will be numerous topics addressed, including:

Post-Katrina New Orleans — In acknowledgement of how the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the drug war intersect, the Drug Policy Alliance will host a Community Forum to provide a unique opportunity to engage the local community and conference attendees in a dialogue about avenues of change and recovery. Additionally, a New Orleans-specific panel will include local community activists in a discussion on how the war on drugs affects New Orleans.

Student Activism and Issues — Students for Sensible Drug Policy will lead an exploration of issues affecting the youth and student demographic, including: their Campus Change campaign, efforts to repeal part of the Higher Education Act (which denies financial aid to students with a drug conviction) and the harms of random student drug testing. These panels will emphasize student mobilization as a means for counteracting harmful policies and promoting reasonable ones.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition — These unlikely allies — including a judge, former police officers, and others — have all come to the same conclusion: drug prohibition is a failure. Participants will address how the war on drugs has negatively impacted their profession and how they came to oppose it. They will give their impressions of the human and monetary costs involved in continuing the war and describe their efforts to confront the misguided stalwarts who stand in the way of pragmatic reform.

Building a Movement with Integrity and Strength: Formerly incarcerated People Take the Lead — The United States is the world’s largest jailer. There are more people in prison in the U.S. on drug charges than are incarcerated in the entire European Union for all offenses and the E.U. has 100 million more residents than the U.S. How does the war on drugs feed the prison industrial complex? Why is the leadership of formerly incarcerated people central to the success of movements for comprehensive drug policy and criminal justice reform?

International Drug Policy Reform Efforts — What can we learn from the advances and challenges of Canada, Mexico, Europe and other parts of the world? Panelists will discuss their experiences and what is needed from — or can be shared with — their American counterparts.

Harm Reduction — It’s not just needle exchanges anymore. Harm reduction can now be applied much more widely: is smokeless tobacco effective harm reduction for smokers? Is lowering the drinking age effective harm reduction to prevent binge drinking among youth? Another session will consider taking harm reduction to the next level by exploring how this basic concept can be successfully integrated into public and governmental systems.

Marijuana – As New Mexico became the twelfth state to legalize medical marijuana, federal opposition in states already allowing it only increased. A series of panels discuss how to combat federal tactics, the challenges presented by implementing medical marijuana laws, new research on marijuana and health and a major session where the leaders of the movement consider new directions for the national strategy to legalize marijuana.

The Drug Policy Alliance is co-hosting the 2007 International Conference with the ACLU, the Harm Reduction Coalition (HRC), Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), Marijuana Policy Project, and Students for Sensible Policy (SSDP). Other partners include: American Sociological Association, Canadian Harm Reduction Network, the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, DRCNet, Harm Reduction Project, Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative, International Drug Policy Consortium, MAPS, Methadone Support, A New Path, Release UK, Sisters of Color United for Education, and the WellProject.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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