As we've reported, the International Drug Policy Reform Conference is taking place in Denver. And while the gathering will feature plenty of in-depth panel discussions and distinguished speakers (see the full program below), several events will feature a celebratory feel -- among them today's "No More Drug War Rally and Victory Walk," in which conference participants will tout Amendment 64's passage and polls showing most Americans think marijuana should be legalized. Art Way, who heads the Denver office of the Drug Policy Alliance, offers a preview. The march begins at 1 p.m. at the Downtown Denver Sheraton, where the conference is based, with those taking part continuing to Skyline Park for a ninety-minute bash featuring Slam Nuba spoken-word artist Dominique Christina, attorney Sean McAllister and more. Why the rally? "We wanted to celebrate Amendment 64," says Way. "And also, since we came into the state a couple of years ago, we and our partners with the Harm Reduction Action Center have gotten quite a lot done" as part of a goal to "shift the paradigm of drug policy to put it under the umbrella of public health."
Examples? "We established a good Samaritan law, so that those who call 911 in the case of an overdose receive immunity from prosecution if they have drugs on them. And then, we came back the following year to make sure those participating in syringe access programs cannot be criminalized for possessing clean syringes. And we also made sure that doctors could prescribe Naloxone to third parties if that third party was in a position to likely save someone's life due to an opiate overdose.
"Naloxone is designed to reverse an opiate-related overdose," Way explains. "When you overdose on opiates, your brain does not get the signals to continue breathing, but Naloxone restores breathing in that situation. And now doctors can prescribe it and lay people can administer it without fear. It puts what are literally life-saving drugs out on the streets. I believe twelve lives have been saved since the Harm Reduction Action Center was able to prescribe Naloxone."
From 9:30 a.m. today, when Representative Jared Polis will offer welcoming remarks at a kickoff plenary, through Saturday, the conference will be jam-packed with timely sessions. Way notes that "we have various people from around the world with us -- people representing Uruguay and Mexico. And the issues we'll be talking about are very broad, including bail reform and the way child protective services are breaking families apart for something as simple as marijuana use. And we'll also talk about which states are likely to legalize marijuana next."
In addition, Way continues, "our allies at Vicente Sederberg will have a celebration party on Thursday night concerning Amendment 64, and the Harm Reduction Center will have a fundraiser in conjunction with our conference on Friday night at club Chloe. The keynote speaker at that will be Carl Hart," the author of High Price: A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society.
For more information about the get-together and affiliated happenings, visit ReformConference.org or the International Drug Policy Reform Conference Facebook page. Below, get a sense of the speakers at the conference from a 2011 cilp featuring California NAACP head Alice Huffman, followed by the complete program for this year's event.
More from our Things to Do archive: "Preview: International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Denver."
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