War on drug users subject of Colorado New Directions Conference

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"It's an event where we'll be able to ask the public-health, prevention and treatment communities, 'How can we all work together to end the war on drug users and place this issue where it belongs -- within the umbrella of public health, as opposed to addressing it from a criminal-justice standpoint.'"

That's how Art Way, who heads the local office of the Drug Policy Alliance, describes the Colorado New Directions Conference, which takes place tomorrow in downtown Denver. Get details about the event below.

"We put together New Directions conferences pretty much yearly," notes Way, "and we pick and choose locations based on where we think the politics are more favorable. This year, we had one in Rhode Island, and we had a similar conference in New York. And this one is in Denver."

Way adds that this marks the first time a New Directions Conference has been held in the same location as the setting for the DPA's biggest gathering of the year, the 2013 International Drug Policy Reform Conference, scheduled to get underway in Denver on October 23.

According to Way, "the conference has four direct goals. The first one is to integrate the various drug policy fields: treatment, public health, law enforcement and harm reduction. The second is to import new ideas from abroad, because Canada and parts of Europe are in many ways leading the struggle to end the war on drug users."

Hence, the inclusion of speakers such as Portugal's Nuno Capaz and Donald MacPherson, director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition.

"The third goal," Way continues, "is to use the conference as an organizing tool, so hopefully we'll be able to increase our allies in the state. We're already making headway: The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is partnering on the event. And fourth is to partner with a local group that's not considered to be a drug-policy reformer -- and I think the Colorado School of Public Health," affiliated with CU, "fits the bill.

"Colorado has been making the transition from an enforcement-only approach to an approach that looks at prevention treatment and diversion," he adds. "Our organization regards it as the epicenter of the country regarding drug-policy reform. So it's the perfect place for the New Directions Conference."

Below, find a press release about the conference, followed by the complete program -- and click here to register.

Colorado New Directions Conference: A Public Safety and Health Approach to Drug Policy

Treatment Providers, Drug Users, Formerly Incarcerated People, Law Enforcement, International Experts and More Gather to Discuss Marijuana Legalization, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites, Effective Treatment and Best Practices From Around the World

One-day Conference to be Held at Denver's Embassy Suites Convention Center, June 6, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

Denver, CO -- Colorado community leaders will join drug policy experts, treatment providers, law enforcement and formerly incarcerated people to deliberate the direction of Colorado's ground-breaking drug policy reforms at "New Directions Colorado: A Public Safety and Health Approach to Drug Policy," a statewide conference to be held June 6, at Denver's Embassy Suites Convention Center. The day-long, public symposium will convene state leaders alongside policy experts to explore a comprehensive, balanced approach to drug policy in Colorado, an approach that recognizes that successful strategies include prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and enforcement in an effort to increase public health and safety.

Recently Colorado became one of the first states to tax and regulate marijuana for adult recreational use. The state also has adopted overdose prevention efforts such as Good Samaritan policies, and immunity for the distribution and administration of the opiate antagonist, naloxone. In the aftermath of such forward-thinking reforms, the conference will offer answers to many questions, including: how can Colorado ensure proper implementation of these reforms? What can we learn from reformers across the globe? What new roles can the public health community play in drug policy efforts moving forward?

One hundred fifty to two hundred stakeholders from around the state will come together to listen to and engage with community leaders and experts about:

• The impact of marijuana legalization on public health • The international implications of Amendment 64 • Emerging health-centered approaches to drug policy • The collaboration of law enforcement and harm reductionist • The event is free and lunch will be provided.

Confirmed speakers include:

• Nuno Capaz, vice president, Dissuasion Commission of Lisbon, Portuguese Ministry of Health • Ethan Nadelmann, executive director, Drug Policy Alliance, New York, • Donald MacPherson, M.Ed., director, Canadian Drug Policy Coalition • Lisa Raville, executive director, Harm Reduction Action Center, Denver • Daliah Heller, director of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Research, CUNY, New York • Christie Donner, executive director, Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, Denver • Barry Zevin, MD, Tom Waddell Health Center, San Francisco • Hong Tran, staff attorney, Racial Disparity Project, Seattle

What: New Directions Conference: A Public Safety and Health Approach to Drug Policy

When: Thursday June 6, 2013; 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., reception to follow

Where: Embassy Suites Convention Center 1420 Stout St., Denver, CO 80202

Colorado New Directions Conference Program

More from our Politics archive circa 2011: "Drug Policy Alliance backs Good Samaritan bill aimed at ending busts after 911 overdose calls."

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