Here is Your Chance to Help End the Failed War on Drugs

Everyday we read national headlines about the war on drugs. More and more elected officials are saying the war on drugs is not working and that we need to consider alternatives. There are stories about states like California considering taxing and regulating marijuana. There is coverage about drug prohibition in Mexico leading to a war zone where thousands of people are being killed every year. There are front page stories about countries from Portugal to Argentina to Mexico decriminalizing small amounts of drugs because they realize that they can’t incarcerate their way out of addiction. It is one thing to read about it, but it is another to jump in and try to come up with solutions to the failed war on drugs.

From November 12-14, a wide range of advocates, doctors, lawyers, activists, treatment providers, law enforcement, students, educators, and formerly incarcerated people will converge for the biennial International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where it was previously held in 2001. The conference returns to New Mexico because the state is a beacon of reform, recently passing innovative medical marijuana legislation and the nation’s first Good Samaritan law to prevent fatal overdoses.

The conference comes at a crucial time: more people than ever grasp the need for our drug policy to shift from criminalization to a public health model. The viability of major reforms is increasing day by day, making now a pivotal moment for exploring alternatives to our nation’s ineffective and damaging lock-’em-up drug laws.

This year’s conference will cover a range of topics, chief among them marijuana legalization. In this new political climate, meaningful reform of marijuana laws is closer on the horizon than ever. Thanks to decades of grassroots activism, combined with the harsh realities of the ongoing economic crisis, the national debate is finally turning in favor of the taxation and regulation of marijuana. In one of the key panels at the conference an array of experts will propose possible regulatory schemes and discuss their potential effectiveness.

Holding the conference in Albuquerque gives us a unique opportunity to examine the intersection of immigration policy and drug policy reform, as well as drug war violence on both sides of the border. Drug policy movers and shakers also plan to push the envelope by discussing innovations that have been successfully implemented in other countries: services like prescribing heroin to people who suffer from addiction to allow them to lead normal lives, or providing supervised injection facilities to protect people who use drugs from disease and lethal overdose.

Our nation’s drug policy should be based on reason, compassion, health and human rights, but to do so will take a great deal of strategizing and organizing. Anyone who believes the drug war does more harm than good is encouraged to attend November’s conference. As usual, it will be a high-energy, can’t-miss event, where even the strangest of bedfellows can find much to agree on.

Join us in New Mexico! For more info:

ANTHONY PAPA is the author of 15 Years to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom and Communications Specialist for Drug Policy Alliance. He can be reached at:

Anthony Papa is the Manager of Media and Artist Relations for the Drug Policy Alliance and the author of This Side of Freedom: Life After Lockdown.