COLORADO: The dust has now settled on the Drug Policy Alliance’s International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Denver last month – attended by three Transform staff as well as a more than a 1,000 drug policy experts and activists from around the world. The conference is held every two years and chance had it that this year it would be in Denver, Colorado – one of the two states that had made history last year by becoming the first jurisdictions anywhere in the world to legalise and regulate cannabis.
There was understandably a sense of celebration in the air, a feeling that, as DPA Executive Director Ethan Nadlemann put it, a tipping point had been reached. The sense that – at least with the US cannabis debate – the reform position was winning the day was solidified by polling earlier in the week of the conference that showed 58% of the US public now supported cannabis legalisation – a jump of 10% in a year.
But many were also keen to stress that celebrations should not be premature – as Ira Glasser, the DPA’s board president and a former head of the ACLU, made clear in his closing plenary speech:
“We haven’t won. Not only because it’s only two states out of fifty, but because it’s only one issue out of many. Marijuana legalization ain’t enough.”
Reflecting this, the conference was about much more than just US cannabis policy, with an impressive array of speakers, sessions, workshops and events covering a broad range of topics that encompassed treatment and harm reduction, international law, policing and issues for key affected populations in the US and around the world.