Photos: Inside the International Drug Policy Reform Conference, part three
Editor's note: This is part three of correspondent Shannon Brandt's reports about the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Denver last week. To read part one, click here. To read part two, click here.
Big photos below.
Down the street from the convention, a few hundred people slowly gathered for a bit of poetic justice shouted from some elevated sewer grate off the side of Ashford University's downtown Denver office.
There's no stage better than a street corner for the war's victims and victors to share their pain and their passion, sun beating down on the sleek, black face of a nearby building. Loose talk of kids shuffled like playing cards from a magician's hands, one foster home to the next, because drugs lost a mother her children; firsthand testimony on the deterioration of the DEA followed a quick demand for its full dissolution as a government agency; even the smallest victories in drug education on college campuses get to brag of lives saved.
And on the subject of addiction, specifically addiction to crack cocaine, there's more than enough to be said about the recovery process being more about an escape from slavery than an escape from a drug.
From Dorsey Nunn of the San Francisco LSPC (Legal Services for Prisoners with Children), we got a few more words about how a return to smoking crack can be righteous, even liberating -- and into the mike he screamed why to a smiling, crying crowd, over and over again: "I own me. I own me... no one else, not anymore. Even if I decide to end my life, that choice belongs to me."
All of this is a part of the poetry of a movement bent on addressing a great world sickness -- one apparently claiming to dissuade us from the individual and perhaps natural desire to adapt and to evolve.
I was caught up in the glow of this. There was a heat of spiritual reverence and strength coming off this man, and he was standing right next to me, so I just had to ask: "Dorsey, does it feel like you're standing on the peak of everything good that's happening in this world right now?"
He stared off for a moment, and then this flash of a smile came through.
"Yeah," he responded. "And everything bad, too. That's what makes this so important - this is where it gets fun."
As the crowd broke up into dozens of chattering, passionate discussions working their way back to the convention, I was looking for a moment to catch my thoughts -- to find my way through a surge of emotional intensity that was whipping its way like lightning through everyone around me. I was reminded briefly of how the Drug Policy Alliance's founder and executive director, Ethan Nadelmann, had been known to describe the conference, as a cross between an academic meeting of the minds and an old-school revival meeting.
I didn't have any time for that, though, because it seemed I was being paged. From out of the corner of my eye, there was this shining smile paging my name into the mouthpiece of a silent bullhorn: Art Way, Colorado's senior drug policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. A physical and literal giant of the convention, Way, along with his small crew of staff and volunteers, was responsible for ensuring the whole conference went off without a hitch -- and as a growing team of solemn police officers slowly filed into the exterior of the courtyard, it was becoming fairly clear that his job was beginning to get harder.
Continue for more about the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Denver.