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Drug Policies For The New Millennium . . . [continued]
Notes on the Lindesmith-DPF Conference, by Erowid Crew Member V
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II. Approximate transcripts of presentations by the speakers

{Notes : I've attempted to write down what was actually said, because these are people whose words are worth catching, rather than just the flavor of what they are saying. Approximate verbatim texts are given here, but occasionally I was unable to catch a sentence(and once or twice, a paragraph), and it was skipped or sometimes paraphrased. In a few cases I was taking notes by hand,and was unable to catch a large piece of the talk; those times are noted. Unfortunately I could not attend the last day, so notes on that day are not included.

Notes in bold at the beginning of each plenary session are from the Lindesmith website , Drug Policies For The New Millennium

There was a great deal of applause, approval, standing ovations, and other acknowledgement of the good work people have done in this area, of the things they have suffered, or of their bravery in speaking out. I have not noted these nearly as often as they occurred, but I will say that it was a heart-opening experience to participate in such acknowledgement of people who rarely receive the appreciation they deserve. )

Some abbreviations:
WOD: War on Drugs
WOSD: War on Some Drugs. A sarcastic commentary on the fact that we are awash in drugs, even medicating people for shyness, and that these and alcohol and nicotine can be deadly, but that other drugs with demonstrated benefit and far less cost to our health are illegal. Thus, we war on some drugs, allow others more dangerous to be legal, and base our legal choices not on the harm they cause, but on bias and history.
LDF: Legal Defense Fund

Ethan Nadelmann
Executive Director, The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation:
"Drug Policy Reform Comes of Age"

(intro and greeting)
It's fear that keeps people in agreement with the War on Drugs. This is the same fear that produces racism, that produces slavery, that produces other persecutions.

We are the people who like and love and use marijuana. We are the people who are sober. We are the people who just abstain, but see no reason for others to be victims. We are those who understand that we are victims (as well as those in jail).

Struggles for political justice triumph because people who are victims fight, and those not a target join arms with them. We are ALL victims of the drug war no matter what our color may be. We are the people of Europe, moving towards regulation and legalization, who say 'America, LEAVE US ALONE - open your eyes and learn a new approach." But it is NOT America but the government of the United States (that believes in and enforces these unjust laws).

We are our police and customs and military who know that what we (as a country) are doing for 5 and 10 and 20 and 30 years has not worked. This is not easy to admit. We have fought this struggle long and hard; we have busted drug dealers without one regret. We have fought this struggle, and we don't want to admit we wasted it in this foolish and counterproductive war. (People) develop an emotional ignorance - they don't want to let in that new information that might challenge their belief system.

Understand what we're up against here.. what is the War on Drugs.

First, it is the presumption that criminalization has to be front and center, has to be number one - and that police and military generals must be in charge of this.

(Second,) it is the assumption and presumption that the only permissible way to relate to psychoactive substances is abstinence. Essentially this is a religious belief system-clear back to alcohol prohibition. Aspects of American Christianity are somehow woven into our society, but at its roots the Drug War is inconsistent with Judeo-Christian beliefs. Those that claim to be good Christians/Jew/etc are people who claim they value life... but they take abstinence as a higher value than this (when they propagate the drug war and its impacts on people). I don't think that's being a good Jew, or a good Christian, or Muslim, or Buddhist.

We are fighting for the preservation of life and freedom; it is where public health and freedom intersect. What are our strategies and tactics? We're getting more savvy-we have a victory almost every referendum. (he lists them). We won through savvy politics using real tools - public opinion polling, identifying those areas of the drug war where a majority of Americans disagreed..

Any state where a majority of the public is ready, we'll win. We'll fight in the state legislature - we've won in (lists New York, Connecticut, state of Washington, Oregon, Ohio, New Hampshire, even the tough state of Texas, California, Illinois, New Jersey). Using the internet, using communications, reaching out, becoming articulate - (those are our strengths).

(the crowd is going wild.. clapping every couple of minutes..)

We are destined to win this war! We are gonna make this thing happen, city by city.. just like the 18th amendment was won. You take marijuana from the drug war, and drug testing will go down the drain.

We have to be savvy. We've got to be disciplined. Let's make our message clear. For those of us who love marijuana, remember there are people who can't handle marijuana. We need to accept that, and reassure those parents.

We know that the War on Drugs is not about marijuana, so we can't just say, marijuana is cool. Marijuana works for some people - people who've stopped using (other drugs and alcohol) because they use marijuana. But marijuana IS a drug. So we need to be smart and strategic.

We're moving and growing, we're going to fight with one another, because we're human. But the ultimate success of this movement will depend on keeping our eye on the prize, in joining together to get there. It's about discipline. It's about our language, too. Many of us think that just because we're right, we have the right to say it as we see it, and as we believe it. But if we don't think first about how our words are heard and interpreted, then why are we doing it?

We need to use the words that are most effective in communicating. For most people out there, if they think you just want their kids to smoke marijuana, then we have failed.

Activism and self-expression are not one and the same. Listen to your words and how they are heard by others. There are reasons the politicians spend millions on focus groups. We don't have that - so we have to assess the impact of words (and maximize our ability to communicate). We have the medium of language to transmit something from OUR hearts and minds to the hearts and minds of others.

Finally, it's about heart. Opening your heart to understanding. So many of us are fueled by our anger, our hatred of this War on Drugs. We know we are fighting so that our children will look back on this and say 'My God how could you possibly have done that?' in the same way we look back on the (civil rights).

And of course we 're angry. We're furious about the lies and hypocrisy. But if all that comes out of us is anger, then people will only see that. Because the expression of our anger is not the best way to convey this.

It's opening our hearts to see that almost no one out there is our enemy. I went to see Ram Dass (sixties advocate of LSD who went on to become a beloved spiritual teacher and advocate of compassion toward all). And what he said was,

"Ethan, you have to learn to love William Bennett!!"

It's about opening our hearts to the frustration of the police and to everyone involved in this issue. It's about people in recovery. Our notion of how things must change, and the recovery movement - they share a focus on human dignity, on one day at time, and on not letting justice system (be destructive).

But we say, we CAN use, without abuse. They say, we cannot. We have a potentially vast ally in the recovery movement, but we have to open our hearts to them and to everyone. If we can keep our hearts open, as a movement (we will all benefit).

(Lots of cheering, clapping, and standing ovation..)

Keynote: Rev. Edwin Sanders
Senior Servant, Metropolitan Interdenominational Church, Nashville:
"Broadening the Struggle"

(Intro and greeting...)

It's important to find those places where we know we can move in step with each other, to appreciate the freedom and a place where we fit in, and to know that we are part of something of profound significance in this time. It's important for me to stand here in front of you, and to see who is here, and to appreciate who is here.

I pray that if nothing else happens, that truly this is a celebration. There is ground covered, and a place we find ourselves today that we can embrace. A celebration of accomplishment and of new beginnings - the first time we meet under the banner of the Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation, and an accessing of intellect and the spirit in a way that is of profound significance for the future.

I want to bring up the question, who are we? And to try to suggest where we go from here.

Who we are... is messengers. I would suggest to you we are ALL messengers, and we come together in opportunities and confess like this- we are making sure we are all on the same page, refining the message, representing the truth.

Our message has a transforming effect, and what that message will be in the transformation of attitudes. Having the right message is crucial - the message is of profound significance.

Speech is the appropriation of infinite possibilities...born out of that place that allows it to be something more than words.

A story... someone delivered a message of one word, that had a transforming effect on his life. He was graduating from high school - it was hot. Gathered outside with high humidity and the hot sun, they were celebrating leaving high school Everything was too long that day... because of an activity of the night before. They all had to struggle to keep eyes open. (laughter) As it went on and on, he could hardly keep his eyes open. But he remembered what his mother said - the speaker was A. Philip Randolph, a great man. By the time they got around to the message, the guy looked out at them, and saw everyone almost asleep. But Randolph stood there and said not a word for 2,3, 4 minutes, and it seemed like 2,3,4 hours. And he looked out and said, WAKEUP!!

Randolph just simply said 'wakeup!' - and it was the most profound message I has ever heard. Everytime someone talks about how impossible something is, he thinks of that call to wake up.

The spirit of that message is important. There is something we need to make sure our message includes - we have to say to the world, wake up! Recognize the War on Drugs is immoral!

This is a war where people are maintaining personal advantage, where they are exploiting fear. Where the worst stuff is perpetrated on people just because of their personal decisions that harm no one.

We need to see --it's immoral - it's unjust.

We need to WAKE UP.

There's a story about a guy who saw a chain gang ...(it's a ratio of) 16:1 white over black users, but 75% of the chain gang was black, and 90% of them on there for drugs. This is unfair! The little cities and communities, we have to be the ones to say, WAKE UP! It's immoral, and it's unjust. But it is also DANGEROUS, because it is public health injustice... no access to (treatment, to rehabilitation).

Wake up... it's unlivable!

Always put your money in what you believe in... and we believe in what we are fighting for... that in and of itself is enough to translate into a victory over this drug war.

Wake up to the fact that there's something wrong with this picture!

People can fight on behalf of others. Look around.. it's a wakeup this movement needs. It's a point of new beginning.. there are very few people who happen to have this 'ebony glow' about them (laughter) (the room is primarily white people).

It's an important time for us all to come together, in a way that allows us to come forth in a forthright truthful manner. It's over issues that fragment and divide people, but my word for you today make sure you carry the passion and the conviction to say to all, WAKE UP! We cannot continue in our elitist ways.. let us see ourselves in the mirror and say "wake up".. the potential is too great... for unity, for us to pass up.

Like the 50s and 60s long do we have to wait for change? How long??

(The crowd yells back: ) NOT LONG!

What's happening in this room can have a transforming effect on this world. It will allow us in this place called America to have another opportunity to live up to the ideals and the precepts that we cherish.. to live up to the spirit that gave birth to us all. Seize the moment!!!

(sustained cheering and standing ovation!)

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