Marijuana

Photos: Inside the International Drug Policy Reform Conference, part two

Editor's note: This is part two of correspondent Shannon Brandt's reports about the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Denver last week. To read part one, click here.

A logo is often regarded as a condensed, compressed, symbolic summoning-up of everything that a big entity means to represent in everyday life. In most cases, the logo can even be seen as the most visible sign of the collective intelligence seething and rattling away behind it.

The Drug Policy Alliance convention's special-made logo is simple and to the point: a blue circle containing the word "reform" and a bright yellow droplet encapsulating and emphasizing the "form" section of the word. The theme presented is one of movement transition, where a bright and shining new light on the "form" of remaking drug policy within our nation's existing institutions depends on professionalism and formal outreach. That is, taking the traditional power structure head-on by enlisting to your cause those regarded as its most staunch supporters: cops, judges, social workers, military officers and so on. In other words, the people who worked on the inside of the system, pushing the "Prohibition" doctrine firsthand -- the people who got to see everyday why repressive drug policies just didn't work.

You can contrast that labeling with the traditional imagery of a police officer's badge. Pinned to the heart of the agent of the law tasked with the on-the-ground enforcement of national drug policy, that image sends a very strong message to the public: that the cold mechanics of law enforcement hold precedence over the passions and emotions of the heart. That machine-like desire to fulfill a method of social control certainly doesn't bode well for the personal stories -- and human lives -- that get swept to the wayside.

Expanding the inclusivity of a movement to include not just those who have been victimized by the drug war, but also those who believed for some time that it could help people, invites a flood of new emotions and questions. In this new context, where does emotion truly fit alongside professionalism? Where do tears belong in the movement?

That last question might be regarded as a key tool for the movement in analyzing the power that combining both elements equally could bring to the table -- but it's a challenge that women within the community have faced all along.

In an all-womens' forum at the conference, a strong case is presented that this and questions like it have long been used not as a tool to empower women, but to silence their voice.

The idea that there's a time and a place for emotions, and that professionalism must come first and foremost, is actually a sentiment that the women in the room agree with. What they don't agree with is the way that this question is used to hyper-analyze and restrict their roles and capabilities.

That's a problem for the women here, and for the movement as a whole. Without a doubt, there is a great and somewhat untapped potential in the positive impact organized mothers could enact for policy change. The opposition knows this: Historically, parents -- and more often, mothers -- have been deliberately excluded from conversations on policy change by key decision-makers.

The reason? Decision-makers feel that mothers have an innate bias on the issue, due to their desire to love and protect their children. It's believed that this bias prevents women from making sound judgments on drug policy, and warrants their exclusion from the conversation.

I repeat: To have a child and to hold a view that the drug policy should protect children means you will likely be ignored by the very people with the power to protect all of our nations' children.

It is this vantage point that many believe reveals the intersection between the "War On Drugs" and the "War On Women."

Continue to read more about the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Denver.

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