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A Report From Denver's Drug Policy Reform Conference

November 4, 2013

Ekene Okwuegbunam, Housing Works international advocacy and public policy associate.

Ekene Okwuegbunam, Housing Works international advocacy and public policy associate.

The International Drug Policy Reform Conference, a biennial event that brings together people from around the world who believe that the war on drugs is doing more harm than good, took place October 23-26 in Denver. It brought together over 1,000 attendees representing 30 different countries. HW's advocacy staffers Ekene Okwuegbunam and Christine Rodriguez attended. Here is a short report on the conference from Okwuegbunam:

The Drug Reform Conference 2013 was sponsored by organizations including the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Good Chemistry and American Victory Coalition. It was made up of a diverse group of people from around the world; policy makers, scientists, nonprofit program persons, drug reform funders, faith based organizations, etc.

All participants believe that the war on drugs in the United States and around the world is doing more harm than good, and that it is time to fight for sweeping reforms to drug policies that have only succeeded in increasing incarceration rates of poor communities, especially of color, and of exacerbating social ills.

The main goal of the conference was to look for an exit strategy from the war on drugs.

The conference focused on the state of different drugs in relation to legal provisions and criminalization. Attendees shared strategies learned from the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington and the fight for legalizing the same in several other states. The conference also focused on medical marijuana and the case for its legalization.

Several breakout sessions over the three days focused on topics including:

  • supervised injection facilities and where/how they have been implemented around the world
  • confronting racially biased policing to stem the drug war
  • research impurities (politics of drug research and politics in drug research) etc.

The highlights of the conference were the opening and closing plenaries, which included personal versions of people's experience with the drug war in the criminal system, looking at the lives that are ruined as a result of the drug war. A rally down the busy downtown streets of Denver was also a highlight.

The conference ended with an invigorating call to press forward on issues created by the war on drugs, and for a continued systematic push to ensure legalization in more states in the United States.

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This article was provided by Housing Works. It is a part of the publication Housing Works AIDS Issues Update. Visit Housing Works' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
See Also
Ask Our Expert, David Fawcett, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., About Substance Use and HIV
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