Photos: Inside the International Drug Policy Reform Conference, part one
Which state will be the next to legalize marijuana? What do the Obama administration's recent announcements about marijuana legalization and mandatory minimums really mean? What are some solutions to the national overdose crisis that takes more lives than car accidents or gun violence? Those were just some of the questions that over 1,000 people gathered to consider at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference hosted by the Drug Policy Alliance at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel October 23-26.
Big photos below.
Our correspondent, Shannon Brandt, was there; the first in a series of reports follows:
There's this joke somebody once told me.
Kid walks down the street, comes up to these three strangers and asks them: "If there was an absolute cure for human pain and suffering, would you take it?"
Guy on the left, clearly a scholar, responds back with his own question: "What would life really be like if we were to exclude a portion of the human experience?"
Guy on the right just says,."No," as emphatic, as strong and as daring as a middle-schooler in the middle of red-ribbon week.
Kid takes a step back in his head, thinks that would make a pretty good punchline, but decides to go a little bit further. And so he says, "But who really defines what the human experience is?"
This time, from all three, same answer: "The individual. No one but the individual."
Kid gets real quiet, doesn't say much for a while. Finally, he blurts out: "Wait a minute. Are you telling me that each and every one of us has got some sort of inalienable human right for the pursuit of their own human happiness?"
If I'd stumbled straight down the streets of Denver right into that joke, you can bet that a lengthy conversation would have followed -- but you wouldn't need to hear that. You'd just need to know that what this joke really amounts to is everything that the 2013 International Drug Policy Reform Conference was about.
For the uninitiated, the first thing you need to know about the community at this conference is that it is, first and foremost, a drug "policy" movement -- broadly named for more than a few reasons. First off, "reform" of the legal system doesn't mean the same thing for those striking for full-on "decriminalization" of marijuana; likewise, decriminalization's a tad too happy-go-lucky for the folks who say that that process won't get us anywhere without effective regulation. Then there are the efforts for medicinalization, education, incarceration, treatment and more.
At the end of the day, it makes for a pretty big movement -- one of the biggest and fastest-growing in the nation right now, by far. So "policy" really is just about the only word that fits.
But for some people, the word "policy" just won't work. For some, fighting for a "Brave New World" of effective and efficient legalization, decriminalization and regulation of all drugs, medicines, sacraments and anything else you might choose to call otherwise controlled-narcotic substances is the only way to go: full-on policy change from the ground-up -- and back again.
Photo by Shannon Brandt Attendees gather on the first day of the conference.
Continue for more coverage of the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Denver.