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Drug Policies For The New Millennium
The Lindesmith Center - Drug Policy Foundation
2001 International Conference

Thursday, May 31 - Saturday, June 2, 2001
Albuquerque, New Mexico
by Erowid Crew Member, V

  1. Session summaries and contents
  2. Approximate transcripts of presentations by the speakers
  3. Comments on the conference by V
    Anger and Communication / Race and the Drug War / The Issue of Fear / On the Youth Movement
  4. Recommendations for the conference organizers
    More discussion time / Make salient the economic and social costs of the War on Drugs/ Short talks by many groups/ Things not said: On core issues of culture and society/ Proposing solutions/ Conclusion/ Congratulations to the organizers!

Setting: The conference took place in the grand ballroom of the Hyatt Regency, Albuquerque. People sat around many tables distributed around the large room, a few dressed in business suits, but many adults and especially a large group of young people dressed very casually. Overall a diverse-looking group, by class and gender and age, except that there were not many people of color.

I. Session summaries

Ethan Nadelmann [Full Report]
spoke of the many kinds of people who are against the War on Drug - different groups, different views, different reasons, here in America and around the world. How we are ALL victims of the drug war, and must unite to support those of us who are more directly the victims. He spoke of how we have to be strategic, and how we have to express ourselves in a way that lends itself to communicating with people in the ways they are open to, rather than with our justifiable frustration.

Reverend Edwin Sanders [Full Report]
gave an impassioned and motivating speech in the powerful style of the black preacher that he is. It was moving, it pointed to things that were lacking in the movement, and it asked that we use our passion and conviction to motivate others and to "wake up! He said we are all messengers, carrying a message of truth.

Plenary Session I: "Taking Stock: Victories for Drug Policy"

Bill Zimmerman [Full Report]
outlined successes gained through the use of voter initiatives, including those for medical marijuana in California, Alaska, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Washington, D.C. in 1998; in Maine in 1999; and in Colorado in 2000; for asset forfeiture reform in Oregon and Utah, and for treatment instead of incarceration in California.

Graham Boyd [Full Report]
gave an encouraging overview of litigation progress, including recent victories in the Supreme Court and lower courts, and good news not apparent but happening behind the scenes.

Julie Stewart [Full Report]
discussed President Clinton's commutation of 28 drug prisoners before he left office and the prospects for major drug sentencing reform over the next two years. Several reform bills are pending in Congress to overhaul federal mandatory minimums.

Glen Backes [Full Report]
discussed recent state legislative victories.

Notes from a Press Conference [Full Report]

Plenary Session II: New Mexico Panel

Honorable Joe Thompson [Full Report] New Mexico House of Representatives
had some words on strategy around drug policy reform, including: bipartisan thinking is not useful, keeping your cool, you're only as good as your sources, and you must protect your champions.

Gary Johnson [Full Report] New Mexico Governor
gave a chronology of how he came to his politics on drug policy reform, and then said that the state of New York is what brought down Prohibition by refusing to police those laws - perhaps New Mexico can lay the same role here.

Cisco McSorley [Full Report] New Mexico State Senator
spoke briefly on how we have to couple treatment to changes in drug policy. Also, must support and protect elected officials willing to address drug policy reform, or else it's seen as political suicide.

Honorable Alex Valdez [Full Report] Secretary, New Mexico Department of Health
said brief words on supporting Narcan and treatment.

Plenary Session III
Ecstasy: Science, Medicine, Culture

Rick Doblin [Full Report] President, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies
outlined MAPS' strategy of making MDMA available for therapy and other medical uses. He discussed the FDA and gave a brief outline of the history of MDMA.

Sue [Full Report]
described her personal therapeutic experience with MDMA. Before Sue's husband died of terminal cancer at a young age, they took it together and were able to resolve issues and re-establish a loving and positive relationship. A subsequent MDMA session allowed Sue to adjust to his death, through the cognitive and emotional therapeutic aspects of MDMA. Later use with a therapist enabled her to relieve deep depression and helped her re-engage with her life.

Charlie Grob [Full Report] MD, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center
discussed MDMA from a medical perspective. He noted MDMA's therapeutic aspects, then outlined its scientifically demonstrated risks and a harm reduction approach to these risks. Lack of information about MDMA is a primary factor in the danger it does offer, which is far less than socially approved drugs like alcohol.

Dustianne North [Full Report] Ph.D. Candidate, UCLA
discussed dance culture and the rave community, and the use of MDMA in these contexts. She outlined the unique, loving, and tribal communities that have arisen around rave music, and their need for support and harm reduction around the problems they experience with misuse of ecstasy.

Theo Rosenfeld [Full Report] Pala Community Development
talked about problems in the dance community with MDMA, mainly due to unsafe venues and toxic substitutes that result from its illegal status. He applauded community support like that of DanceSafe, but urged a greater community response, the free flow of information and education, and a calming of useless hysteria. Establishing models of moderate and responsible use and opening up the dialog are essential.

Plenary Session IV Race and the Drug War

James Forman, Jr. [Full Report] Fellow, New America Foundation
brought up: that this (the anti-WOD) movement needs to go beyond talk only of legalizing marijuana, and only of drug possession, and address other drugs, and dealing drugs, because it is in those areas that the most persecution of people of color is occurring. He adressed up the issue of policing, and how the War on Drugs sets up a fundamental hypocrisy. In American culture students in school are told that if they study, excel, and play by the rules, they will succeed. Yet outside the doors of our schools they are singled out for harassment by police because of their color, and in the name of the War on Drugs. He urged everyone in the room to take the first step, to take the risk, of meeting with communities of people of color, and listening first, talking second.

Antonio Gonzales [Full Report] President, William Valasquez Institute
spoke of how the Latino community once supported the WOD, but now, seeing its damaging effect and no reduction in drugs or crime, the Latino community is changing its attitudes. What we do to others in the world is a reflection of what we do to ourselves, he said, and the corruption of power we produce in other countries through our approach to currently illegal drugs is occurring here in the U.S. as well. As the U.S. supports policies destructive of civil liberties in other countries, we are destroying our own civil liberties here in the U.S. He spoke of how 'drug-baiting' has replaced red (communist) baiting, and with as little cause and for the same reasons, not least a drive for power. This McCarthy-like baiting is now destroying the career of politicians willing to look at crucial issues around the War on Drugs, while their opponents, having shamelessly manipulated the public, benefit. from their manipulative actions.

Teddy Shaw [Full Report] NAACP Legal Defense Fund
spoke on the Kimba Smith case - how she had never sold or handled drugs yet was sentenced to 24 years in prison. The punishment is not equal to the crime, and a central pillar of our judicial system is thus violated. The War on Drugs is a war against people of color, obvious in the fact that while drug use among the privileged is ubiquitous,it is also unpunished relative to its frequency. The War on Drugs legitimizes oppression, and he announced that the Legal Defense Fund is now entering the battle against the War on Drugs.

The Honorable Maxine Waters [Full Report] Member, United States House of Representatives
outlined how the drug war is clearly prosecuted with a racial bias. She discussed how mandatory minimums have shifted discretion to prosecutors away from judges, for who is charged and how they are charged in drug cases. Rep. Waters laid out many statistics on drug use and sentencing by race - although they are only a third of crack users, for instance, blacks are 85% of those in prison for crack charges. Distribution of resources for treatment and rehabilitation is biased against blacks, and constitutes a kind of apartheid. She's introducing a bill to rescind mandatory minimums, and pledges the rest of her time in office to addressing the War on Drugs, reform of the prison system, and getting the resources necessary to deal with HIV/AIDS.

Rocky Anderson [Full Report] Mayor of Salt Lake City
stressed the dishonesty and failure of the War on Drugs, and the toll it takes on our taxpayers and our society. Focusing on harm reduction to individuals and society should be our major goal. The only way to reduce harm is to reduce demand. Punishing people is not a workable strategy; the War on Drugs has simply increased the supply and the money to be made on illegal drugs. He discussed how there is still insufficient research on how to best do harm reduction - we need that research, and then we need to implement those findings.