Rev. Sharpton’s National Action Network Convention to Address Failed Drug War and Mass Incarceration

Press Release April 9, 2014
Media Contact

<p>Contact: Tony Newman (646) 335-5384 or Art Way (720) 288-6924</p>

President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio will all join Reverend Al Sharpton at his National Action Network’s annual national convention being held April 9-12, 2014 in New York, NY.

The conference is being billed as the largest civil rights convening of the year bringing the nation’s top activists, political strategists and leading academia together to create an action plan for a civil rights agenda. Participants will address key policy issues such as jobs, voter ID and immigration; which will be key in this midterm election year.

The conference is also focusing on the failed drug war and mass incarceration. A panel called “Up in Smoke: Banning of Menthol, Legalization of Marijuana & Criminalization of African Americans” will address racial justice and the war on drugs.

"We are at a critical point where momentum to end the drug war and mass incarceration is gaining traction,” said Art Way, Senior Policy Manager, Colorado, of the Drug Policy Alliance. “It's not time to let up, it's time to ramp up."

In just the past six months, the Obama administration has made a series of moves indicating that they are serious about reducing our packed prisons and fixing our broken criminal justice system. The White House is giving the green light to Colorado and Washington to move forward with their marijuana legalization laws. AG Holder is forcefully speaking out against mass incarceration and mandatory minimum laws. The Treasury Dept. and Justice Dept. issued new guidelines for banks to work with legal marijuana businesses. The White House is asking for clemency candidates to help drug prisoners with unjust sentences. The President is planning to introduce an initiative to end the “school-to-prison pipeline” for young people of color. AG Holder is urging states to lift felony disenfranchisement laws. And of course, President Obama made headlines when he told the New Yorker that marijuana was no more dangerous than alcohol, lamented the racial disparities in marijuana arrests, and called Colorado and Washington’s new marijuana legalization laws “important.”
“President Obama and AG Holder want to make criminal justice reform a defining legacy of their administration,” said Way. “They should. After decades of mass incarceration, the public is demanding an exit strategy from the disastrous war on drugs.”

What: Up in Smoke: Banning of Menthol, Legalization of Marijuana, & Criminalization of African Americans
When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Who:   Moderator: Kendrick Meek, Former U.S. Representative
            Representative Joe Armstrong, President, National Black Caucus of State Legislators
            Chief John I. Dixon III, Chief of Police, Petersburg, VA; President National Organization of Black   Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE)
            Neill Franklin, Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)
            Honorable Robert T. Russell, Jr., Judge, 8th Judicial District, Buffalo City Court
            Art Way, JD, Senior Policy Manager, Colorado, Drug Policy Alliance
Where: Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, 2nd Floor—Central Park East

In addition, another panel at Saturday at 3pm called “The State of Our Prisons: Where We Are and Where we Need to Be” will take a critical look at mass incarceration and strategies to scale it back.

The convention will be held at the Sheraton Times Square Hotel in New York, NY and is free and open to the public with select-ticketed events. Attendees can register and view a full schedule at:

Register today at

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

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