DEADLINE 4/17: The UN and Drug Policy Reform and YOU

 

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STOP THE DRUG WAR!

Dear reformer:

I need your help this week. On Tuesday the “UN General Assembly on the World Drug Problem” (UNGASS) begins in New York, the UN’s highest-level drug policy session in 18 years. I’m writing to ask you three things:

1) Sign our Change.org petition to President Obama calling for stronger US action on global drug policy reform — calling for reform of the UN drug treaties to allow for legalization of marijuana or other drugs, for the supremacy of human rights, stronger support for public health measures and more.  This petition will continue through next January, but if enough people sign it by Sunday night, we will share it with our contacts in media who are working on stories about next week’s UNGASS.

2) If you run or work with an organization, please consider endorsing our sign-on statement to the UN and the US government. There are hundreds of organizations on the statement already, including some of the leading civil rights, HIV/AIDS groups and religious coalitions, among many others. But we need hundreds more to make the kind of impression on media that we want the statement to have. To endorse the statement, just email me at [email protected], and feel free to contact me with any questions.

3) If you believe it’s important for the US drug policy reform movement to play a role in UN drug policy and US foreign policy on drug issues, please make a generous donation to support this campaign. The UNGASS is next week, but global drug policy and our work goes on. The next big UN drug session is just three years away this time, 2019 — the work we’ve done so far is just the beginning.

We’ve done more than organize sign-on letters and petitions. Last week we held a teleconference for media, featuring legislators from Canada and Mexico talking about the prospects for marijuana legalization in those two countries. Next week we are hosting a meeting of NGOs from around the world for how to end the death penalty for drug offenses. We have secured coverage in a range of prominent media outlets, like WashingtonPost.com and the International Business Times, and there are many more that are likely to write stories for UNGASS next week. We have spoken at the UN, for legislative coalitions in Washington, we have brought new and important organizations into drug policy reform. And there is more to come, with your help.

Again, I hope you will sign our petition to President Obama, and that you will help us with an organizational endorsement for our sign-on statement if you can, by Sunday night. Thank you for your support!

Sincerely,

 

David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org
P.O. Box 9853
Washington, DC 20016
http://stopthedrugwar.org
“U.S. and U.N. Drug Policy Reform”

As A Big UN Drug Policy Summit Draws Near, Will Marijuana Activists Become Global Drug Reformers?

By Joel Warner @joelmwarner On 03/29/16 AT 7:56 AM

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Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance and one of the most recognized speakers in drug policy circles, doesn’t mince words when he gets up to talk at marijuana industry events. “Frankly,” he often says, “I am not interested in meeting most of you.” The only people he wants to talk to, he tells his audiences, are those who are going to make a lot of money in the new marijuana industry in an ethical way and are interested in certain social issues that could make them ideal foot soldiers in the wider struggle against the global war on drugs.

That’s because Nadelmann and DPA aren’t just interested in marijuana legalization — they’re interested in wider drug policy reform in the United States and beyond.

Lately, calls for such reforms have reached a fever pitch, thanks to the upcoming United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem on April 19-21, the first time the U.N. has held a special session on drug policy since 1998. Broad coalitions of nongovernmental organizations are pushing member nations like the United States to advocate for bold changes at the meeting. The latest issue of Harper’s Magazine is calling for the legalization of all drugs. And a report released last week by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and The Lancet condemns the global war on drugs for contributing to myriad public health crises.

Meanwhile, targeted efforts are afoot to shift drug policies in the United States. Groups of lawmakers in Maryland and Hawaii are exploring the decriminalization of low-level drug offenses, and Ithaca, New York, is considering opening a heroin injection center in response to the city’s growing drug crisis. “Things have changed enormously. There was no legalization on the horizon when I got involved in this,” said Dave Borden, executive director of StoptheDrugWar.org, who has been advocating for such reforms since the early 1990s. “At that point, there were tough-on-drugs bills all the time. Today, reforming drug sentences is one of the few partisan issues on Capitol Hill. There’s been a total reversal of politics on this issue, even though the changes are still slow to unfold.”

Marijuana legalization is helping to drive these changes. The fact that four U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis underpins the tough international drug policies the United States has championed for decades, while demonstrating the social impact of such reforms is far from catastrophic. And some marijuana advocates and industry stakeholders are already wading into the global drug policy debate; major marijuana groups such as Marijuana Policy Project and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, plus cannabis business interests such as the ArcView Group and Denver Relief Consulting are among members of an ad hoc coalition of organizations calling for narcotics law reforms in the lead-up to the UNGASS. Not only that, but the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access just submitted a lengthy report to the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs outlining potential international medical cannabis reforms.

The growing push for drug law reform beyond marijuana legalization could also lead to divisions among cannabis advocates. Should the U.S. marijuana movement, which has become a political and financial force to be reckoned with, help lead the vanguard in changing drug laws around world? Or should cannabis activists and industry stakeholders stay focused on national marijuana reform, since that could be their best shot at changing the global dialogue on drugs?

“There is no way one cannot want to engage in these UNGASS efforts,” said Allen F. St. Pierre, NORML’s executive director. “But my own political horse sense says it doesn’t equal a hill of beans compared to what is happening on the ground for marijuana right now.”

For some marijuana organizations, the answer is simple: Since their mission is squarely focused on U.S. marijuana legalization, that’s where they need to focus energy and resources. “I think that the work our organization is doing is significantly impacting the international discussion,” said Mason Tvert, MPP’s communications director. “But we are not ourselves working on changing drug laws in Spain. We are focused on marijuana policy, and given the history of the United State being a driver of drug policies worldwide, our work is having an impact on the rest of the world.”

What’s left unsaid is that some of the strategies that operations like MPP are using to reform marijuana laws are ill-suited for wider drug policy debates, such as promoting the idea that marijuana is safer than alcohol. That approach has proven a potent tool, but it wouldn’t work so well in other drug-reform efforts, which are focused not on the relative safety of various narcotics but on the notion that prohibition-based laws combating these drugs make the potential harms even worse.

“I agree with Mason that if people realize marijuana is safer than alcohol, they are more likely to legalize it, but that is not going to fly in the broader drug-policy debate,” said Tom Angell, founder of the cannabis advocacy group Marijuana Majority. “If everything the American people have heard about why we should legalize this one drug hinges on its relative safety, it makes the transition to reforming other drug laws problematic.”

Then there’s the fact that while the marijuana industry is growing by leaps and bounds — the market is estimated to top $20 billion in sales by 2020 — organizations in the scene are still struggling with limited budgets, so they have to make tactical decisions on where to direct their efforts. And right now, for some activists, targeting marijuana legalization might seem like a smarter move than tackling wider drug policy.

For example, while the organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition works to reform all drug laws, a good portion of their work these days is focused on cannabis issues, says executive director Major Neill Franklin, a retired police officer. “If marijuana has all the attention right now, if it’s where the media and conversation is, that is where we are going to be,” said Franklin. “We would be fools to not get into that conversation. It helps us move the conversation on heroin, cocaine and other drugs.”

Another major problem is that drug-reform efforts beyond marijuana are still a very hard sell for the American public. Support for cannabis legalization, for example, just hit an all-time high, with 61 percent of Americans in favor of it. On the other hand, while a majority of Americans now support less-stringent narcotics laws like a shift away from mandatory drug sentences, roughly 10 percent or less want drugs such as cocaine, heroin and LSD legalized. That’s less than the percentage of Americans who wanted marijuana legalized in 1970, when the cannabis movement first began gearing up.

“I hope [DPA’s Ethan Nadelmann] lives a very long life,” said St. Pierre at NORML. “He’s laid the groundwork [for wider drug policy reform]. But it will happen much slower than marijuana. These are drugs that at their core are more pharmacologically dangerous. And as a culture, we don’t reaffirm their use. We don’t have heroin magazines or Cocaine Times.”

So for both tactical and financial reasons, many marijuana activists might be wary of engaging in wider narcotic policy reform in this country and beyond. And that could prove to be a liability for those whose activism depends on drawing attention to drug issues beyond marijuana in the United States. “The debate [around marijuana versus general drug policy reform] among international activists was very active when Colorado and Washington first legalized marijuana,” said Joanne Csete, an adjunct public health professor at Columbia University and member of the John Hopkins-Lancet commission that recently released the report on the global drug war. “There were some people dealing with real draconian drug laws in their countries who were worried that marijuana legalization would tick off the box for people. The concern was really all of drug policy would be defined around cannabis. And that would be the end of it.”

But so far, said Csete, those fears have proven unfounded. Instead, she said, “With the international crowd, I see there is a much greater coming together around the idea that, ‘Let’s learn from these legal regulated marijuana markets.’”

And not only is the marijuana movement bolstering drug reform efforts through successful cannabis legalization efforts, but also some activists and entrepreneurs who got their start in marijuana issues are now looking beyond cannabis to other drug reforms. “I think in general the industry is not overall super supportive of drug policy reform because like most industries, there is no economic drive for it that they see in front of them, but I also think that our industry was built from a grassroots activist movement,” said Aaron Justis, CEO of the Buds & Roses dispensary in Los Angeles and board member of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “It’s why we need to set a good example and put drug policy reform in our budgets now, and not just wait until we have extra money to spend on it. By setting a good example, we can push forward against the global war on drugs.”

It’s not just about setting a good example; for some marijuana activists, getting involved in other reform efforts could be key to their political survival. “I ask my board of directors, ‘As we move through these successions of success, as NORML achieves more and more of its mission statement, what do we do next? Do we continue to exist?’” said St. Pierre. “Can you pivot the marijuana movement — once it is successful — into the drug legalization movement?”

Such considerations are why, according to Nadelmann, among the lines in his speeches that garner the most applause at marijuana events are those that call for global drug policy reform. And it’s why, after such speeches, there are always a few individuals who approach him and say, “I am the person you were interested in talking to.”

Yes, the number of those people is usually small, but according to Nadelmann, it’s growing every day.

CONTINUE READING…

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW Mark Thornton: Cannabis Legalization Starting to Advance Rapidly –

Anthony Wile: Hello, Mark. It’s been over a year since we last interviewed you. Give us an update on your recent work.

Mark Thornton: I was asked to debate the War on Drugs at Oxford Union in June of last year. I was happy to see such a political elitist institution interested in debating the War on Drugs. Maybe the new requirement for paying tuition is having a positive effect or it could be just part of the worldwide trend against the War on Drugs and political institutions in general.

Recently, I was asked to speak to the Atlanta Economic Club at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. I spoke about the Skyscraper Curse, a topic that I was criticized about by the Economist magazine. It’s a topic that I have been talking about often these days as we look out at a pending Skyscraper Signal in Saudi Arabia and the collapse of the world economy.

Anthony Wile: We continue to follow the cannabis trend at The Daily Bell, and given your focus on "the economics of prohibition" over the years, would like to talk with you about several recent developments, especially in regard to two areas – the economics of prohibition and tariffs and price controls. When we talked with you in March 2014 you talked about "UNGASS 2016 and the Enormous Benefits of Legalizing Marijuana." Given the progress to date, what do you expect to come from UNGASS 2016? And how would you assess the working sessions being hosted around the world in preparation for the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs, in April 2016?

Mark Thornton: Well, I have heard about the leaks and those leaks seem quite promising. I believe they basically confirmed what we hoped and expected from UNGASS 2016. It is complete reversal from 1998. In 1998 the report said that policy could achieve a drug-free world. That is an insane position to take, like no more storms, no more automobile accidents. It is the Pollyanna delusion. In 2016 we expect the UNGASS to issue a harm reduction recommendation where illicit drug consumption and possession would not be criminal acts that could lead to a prison sentence. This is a sane policy position. Prison sentences for illicit drug users are clearly harmful to the consumer (who now has a criminal record) and to government (cost of courts and prisons, etc.) and it does not deter consumption, or crime, or other negative consequences.

It is not the correct position of full legalization, but decriminalization has achieved good results in Portugal and Ireland has announced its intention to follow Portugal’s lead. With UNGASS 2016 recommendations we can expect many more counties to follow suit with legalization of marijuana and decriminalization of the hard drugs. Many governments have already turned a blind eye towards illicit drug consumers in anticipation of UNGASS 2016 and are ready to enact harm reduction policies such as decriminalization, marijuana legalization, and needle exchange programs. So I am hopeful that we will see a windfall of policy liberalization in many countries and then political change in countries that do not follow suit.

There will be some pushback from countries like the US, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. The for-profit prison companies in the US will spend lots of money trying to defeat public opinion. Someone should keep an eye on them and their political and lobbying spending. If politicians knew that anyone accepting for-profit prison money would be outed as an ally of crony capitalism, it could be helpful.

Anthony Wile: What about individual response from member nations? Many have already implemented new regulations but I’ve stated my expectation that many changes will likely need to be made to at least parts of those regulatory regimes post-UNGASS, in order to come in line with treaty agreements.

Mark Thornton: Yes, it will be a messy process. Government always is a mess. Some will stick with the War on Drugs, some will adjust within the new framework, and others will venture outside the new guidelines and treaty agreements. As I mentioned, Ireland has already jumped the gun in preparing for full decriminalization. There will be experimentation and lots of reviewing of the evidence. I am sure there will be reform efforts that fail, but overall I am not worried about the long term because we have solid evidence from Portugal.

Medical marijuana legalization has been a big success. Recreational marijuana legalization has been a big success, rather than the disaster that was predicted, for Colorado and Washington. Marijuana and hemp are going to be big businesses in areas as diverse as medicine, textiles, chemicals, building materials, and fuel. They can be grown in diverse climates without herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, and without much labor.

It is a "master ingredient" like petroleum, except it’s renewable. So it’s appealing to our progressive and environmentalist friends and it’s the type of thing that will turn the current and future generations of entrepreneurs to create a giant leap in human progress. I think this potential will force regulators to innovate and fix problems in their systems.

Anthony Wile: I’ve also cautioned excited investors to take a deep breath and wait a bit for the market to shake out, for this very reason. Comment?

Mark Thornton: It is wise to caution investors. Any new product or ingredient experiences a great deal of chaos in the early years. I expect thousands of new and existing businesses to get involved in cannabis and hemp, everything from retailing recreational marijuana, to new cutting-edge medical applications, to competing with the petrol-chemical industry. Initially there could be hundreds of firms in each "product space," but over time each will come to be dominated by a small number of firms. Think about automobiles, soda drinks, and personal computers. They started out with more than a hundred entrants and ended up with just a couple of primary domestic producers. Therefore, it is very difficult to pick winners at this early stage. By the way, there are no Tweets with #marijuanaprofits yet!

Anthony Wile: An argument is made that conflates legalization efforts with promoting the "normalization" of drug use. We suggest, rather, that ending prohibition simply accepts human nature for what it is and enables any adult person seeking to utilize the cannabis plant for either medicinal or adult use recreational purposes in a safe and maturely managed manner. We suggest maturity prevail in this conversation. Recently, the pro-legalization campaign in Ohio featured "Buddie," a marijuana mascot on street corners and public areas in view of children and families, in essence promoting cannabis use. This is quite reminiscent of the "Joe Camel" tobacco advertising that was dangerous and offensive, long ago relegated to the dustbin of history as an unsuitable figure for big tobacco. This kind of promotion is certainly not consistent with public values. Perhaps that’s part of why they lost the vote.

Would you agree that the main objective is to remove the black market from the equation but not to encourage drug use per se or to focus on expanding the usage of cannabis? Does anyone really think a costumed marijuana bud is going to fly?

Mark Thornton: Yes, I completely agree. I argue that the policy of government prohibition causes us all much harm and provides no benefits. Legalization creates opportunities for many economic benefits. However, when it comes to using marijuana for recreational use I am not an advocate. It may be less dangerous than alcohol, but that does not mean I recommend consuming it. It is a drug after all.

The situation in Ohio is important to discuss. The recreational legalization measure on the ballot was recently defeated and properly so. It would have changed the state constitution and put 10 monopoly marijuana growers into the constitution! These 10 monopolists were the ones that wrote and paid for the measure to be put on the ballot. They are the ones that paid for "Buddie" to be on the streets of Ohio. Naturally, crony capitalist/monopolists want to encourage consumption of their product. It is just shameful.

It is important to note that the defeated ballot measure was opposed by many advocates of legalization. Another measure to prevent any monopoly from being written into the state constitution was also passed by the voters. Hopefully, legalization will come in the next round of voting in Ohio. Overall, I consider the ballot results a great victory.

PLEASE CONTINUE READING THIS INTERVIEW AT LINK BELOW!

– See more at: http://www.thedailybell.com/exclusive-interviews/36640/Anthony-Wile-Mark-Thornton/#sthash.ft32TNJ2.dpuf