Drug Policy Alliance to Host the 2013 International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Denver, October 23-26

Press Release October 3, 2013
Media Contact

<p>CONTACT: Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Tommy McDonald 510-338-8827</p>

DENVER, CO —Which state will be next to legalize marijuana? What do the Obama administration’s recent announcements about marijuana legalization and mandatory minimums really mean? What are some solutions to the national overdose crisis that takes more lives than car accidents or gun violence? Why do blacks go to jail for drugs at 13 times the rate of whites even though they use and sell drugs at similar rates? What role can faith leaders play in organizing and mobilizing their congregations to end the drug war?

More than 1,000 people will gather to ponder these questions and many more at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Denver, October 23-26 at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel.

In the past decade, voters and legislators have enacted hundreds of drug policy reforms on issues ranging from medical marijuana to treatment-instead-of-incarceration for nonviolent drug law violations. Building on the momentum from these victories, more than 1,000 drug policy experts, health care and drug treatment professionals, elected officials, law enforcement, students, and formerly incarcerated people from around the country and across the world will gather to promote alternatives to the failed war on drugs.

Denver provides a compelling backdrop for the conference – and not just because Colorado made history last year by becoming the first state to legalize marijuana. Colorado is home to a strong base of savvy drug policy reformers advocating for harm reduction policies and sentencing reforms. It is increasingly viewed as a bellwether state in terms of policy and politics, and its national resonance will only increase in years to come. DPA has been deeply involved in the state for more than a decade. In its first foray, DPA spearheaded and managed the campaign that passed the state’s medical marijuana initiative in 2000. After playing a supportive role to our in-state allies for more than a decade, DPA opened an office in Denver in early 2011 to help pass Amendment 64 and advance other policy changes.

“When we first picked Denver to host the 2013 biennial conference, we thought it quite unlikely that we’d be convening in the first state (with Washington) to legalize marijuana,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.  ‘But Colorado’s voters ensured a warm welcome with their vote last November.  Now drug policy reformers from across the country and around the world are eager to attend our conference in Denver – not to get high in the Mile High City but to spend three days at the world’s leading drug policy reform gathering and demonstrate their support for Colorado’s global leadership.”

To celebrate the unprecedented momentum of the drug policy reform movement, conference attendees will participate in a “victory walk” and block party to celebrate the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, Washington, and Uruguay, as well as recent harm reduction and sentencing reform victories in Colorado. The victory walk and rally will take place on Thursday, October 24 at 1 p.m., starting at the 16th Street Mall from the Downtown Sheraton to Skyline Park (between 15th and 16th).

Below is a small sampling of the 50+ panels at the conference. For the full list, including descriptions and speakers, see: http://www.reformconference.org/program/sessions

Which States Will be Next to Legalize Marijuana?

International Innovations

View from the Right: Libertarians and Conservatives

Hip Hop and the War on Drugs

Zombies, Mad Scientists, and Legal Highs: Harm Reduction With Emerging Drugs

Organizing While Criminal: Can We Build Power in the Face of Stigma and Criminalization?

Conscience Verdicts: Using Jury Nullification to Quell the War on Drugs

Can You Hear Me Now? Speaking the Language of Reform to Faith Leaders

You Can’t End AIDS Until You End the War on Drugs

This year, the Reform Conference will also feature an interactive photography project that will encourage attendees to use compelling imagery, impactful statements and social media to challenge the war on drugs. The images and messages will focus on three themes: criminal justice, health & harm reduction and marijuana legalization.  Reform attendees will have an opportunity to personalize their own messages and open the dialogue around drug use and people who use drugs. To see the photos from the conference, go to the Reform Conference’s Facebook Page, or search #NoMoreDrugWar on Facebook and Twitter.

The Drug Policy Alliance is co-hosting the 2013 International Drug Policy Reform Conference with the ACLU, the Harm Reduction Coalition, Institute of the Black World, International Drug Policy Consortium, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Marijuana Policy Project, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Open Society Foundations, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. For a full list of partners, more information on the conference, and registration details: Visit http://www.reformconference.org/

The Reform Conference is made possible in part by generous contributions from donors and sponsors, including our Lead sponsor Harborside Health Center, opening reception sponsor  Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, and plenary sponsors the American Victory Coalition and Good Chemistry. Scholarship and foundation support is provided by the Open Society Foundations, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the Libra Foundation, the estate of Ashawna Hailey, and an anonymous donor.

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

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