Jamaican Minister of Justice Mark Golding to be Honored at International Drug Policy Reform Conference

Press Release November 12, 2015
Media Contact

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<p>Tony Newman (646) 335-5384<br />
Tommy McDonald (510) 338-8827</p>

D.C. Metro Area — Jamaican Minister Mark Golding will receive the Kurt Schmoke (previously the Justice Gerald Le Dain) Award for Achievement in the Field of Law at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in the D.C. metro area on Saturday, November 21. The award recognizes those involved in law who have worked within official institutions when extremist pressures dominate government policies.

"Every once in a rare while, a government official steps up and out to provide much needed leadership on a controversial issue," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "That's what Mark Golding did, with skill and courage, thereby enabling Jamaica to leap to the forefront of nations in embracing just and sensible reform of cannabis laws."

Minister Golding played a key role in advancing government support for sweeping marijuana reforms enacted earlier this year. With special attention paid to communities that use ganja for religious reasons, the comprehensive reforms included the decriminalization of the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana and the decriminalization of marijuana use for religious, scientific and medical purposes. And in an effort to guarantee inclusiveness, Minister Golding has been working hard to ensure that Jamaica’s traditional marijuana growers are granted a space in the new system.

Minister Golding’s objective in advancing these reforms was to provide a more enlightened approach to dealing with possession of small quantities and smoking, while still meeting the ends of justice in order to ensure the benefit of society as a whole and reduce the burdens on the court system. Outside of Jamaica, Minister Golding has become a global advocate for broad drug policy reform and lessening the harms of penal policy and drug prohibition.

Previous recipients of the Justice Gerald Le Dain Award include: Hon. Jeffrion L Aubry, New York State Assembly member, chariman of the Assembly Corrections Committee and advocate for Rockefeller drug law reform; Libby Davies, Canadian Member of Parliament for Vancouver East since 1997; Vanita Gupta, NACDL attorney who played a pivotal role in the Tulia, Texas pardons; and Congressman John Conyers, Jr.

The LeDain Award is being renamed this year in honor of Kurt Schmoke, who bravely spoke out against the rapidly escalating war on drugs and for serious consideration of alternatives to punitive, prohibitionist drug policies shortly after being elected mayor of Baltimore, Maryland in 1987. His outspokenness came as a surprise to many because he had previously served as Baltimore’s state’s attorney (chief prosecutor).

Notwithstanding fierce opposition to his comments both within Baltimore and around the country, Mayor Schmoke did not relent.  He was re-elected twice, serving as mayor for a total of twelve years, during which time he introduced needle exchange and other harm reduction programs to Baltimore, fought for similar reforms throughout Maryland, joined the board of the Drug Policy Foundation (and subsequently the Drug Policy Alliance) and continued to speak out boldly for both incremental and transformational drug policy reforms.

Kurt Schmoke subsequently served as dean of Howard University Law School from 2003 to 2012 and was appointed president of the University of Baltimore in 2014.  His commitment to drug policies grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights has never wavered.

The International Drug Policy Reform Conference is being organized by the Drug Policy Alliance, the nation's leading organization promoting alternatives to the drug war, and is co-sponsored by dozens of other reform organizations. For more information on the conference and a complete list of awardees, visit: www.reformconference.org.

For a complete list of award honorees, please visit: http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/2015/11/leading-drug-policy-reformers-be-honored-international-drug-policy-reform-conference-wa

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

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