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Preview: International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Denver next week

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The first retail sale of recreational marijuana in Colorado has yet to be rung up, but the state is already reaping some convention business as a result of its groundbreaking reforms of drug laws. Next week more than a thousand elected officials, health care professionals, students, drug war veterans and policy wonks from thirty countries will descend on downtown Denver for the International Drug Policy Reform Conference -- four days of panels and analysis of drug policies that will also be a celebration of Colorado's key role in the reform movement.

The biennial conference, slated for October 23-36 at the Sheraton Denver Downtown, is the brainchild of the Drug Policy Alliance, which has been active in marijuana legalization movements around the country -- and was directly involved in the successful effort to pass Amendment 64 last year.

"When we first picked Denver to host the 2013 biennial conference, we thought it quite unlikely that we'd be convening in the first state (with Washington) to legalize marijuana," reads a statement released by DPA executive director Ethan Nadelmann. "But Colorado's voters ensured a warm welcome with their vote last November. Now drug policy reformers from across the country and around the world are eager to attend our conference in Denver -- not to get high in the Mile High City but to spend three days at the world's leading drug policy reform gathering and demonstrate their support for Colorado's global leadership."

Scheduled programs include a roundtable focusing on which states might move forward with marijuana legalization in 2014 or 2016; a discussion of international drug decriminalization efforts, with top-ranking officials from Guatemala, Uruguay and elsewhere; panels dealing with jury nullification, drug culture, drugs and HIV, the criminal justice system and more. For a complete list of sessions on tap, check out the official schedule. Many of the speakers have yet to be identified, but what's a drug policy reform conference without some last-minute inspirations?

One event attendees can count on: a "victory walk" down the Sixteenth Street Mall on Thursday, October 24, starting at 1 pm, "to celebrate the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, Washington, and Uruguay, as well as recent harm reduction and sentencing reform victories in Colorado." After forty years of failed wars on drugs, an autumnal stroll in support of "harm reduction" strategies might not be a bad idea at all.

Additional information regarding next week's action can be found on the conference website.

More from our Marijuana archive circa August: "War on drugs survey: 4 percent say we're winning, 82 percent disagree."

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