I got a wonderful letter from Roger Goodman, Director of the Drug Policy Project of the King County Bar Association.
I was so impressed with the KCBA resolution calling upon the State of Washington to take over the regulation and dispensation of drugs currently under federal prohibition (I think it’s one of the most important documents ever created regarding drug policy reform), that I wrote with some questions about the future plans for the proposal.
Here’s part of Roger’s letter:
We plan to use the Resolution and the report underlying it as the intellectual platform for real legal reform — this isænot a mere academic exercise.æ Needless to say, for such a monumental change this is going to take time.æ
We’ve made progress with this approach already.æ In 2001 we published Is It Time to End the War on Drugs? (Our latest Resolution and both reports are available at http://www.kcba.org/druglaw/index.html ),æwhich propelled the state legislature in 2002 to reduce prison time drastically and fund treatment for drug offenders.æ Now, obviously, we aren’t going to see the major culture shiftæovernight in the present campaign, although we did get the Chair of theæJudiciary Committee in the State Senate last week to introduce a bill and call a public hearing on creating a state commission to recommend concrete steps the legislature can take to move toward a regulatory framework for drug control.æ It was a great hearing, although the bill will move no further this session, which is what we expected.æ Significantly, however, the official public discussion was launched and we achieved our goal this time around.æ We basically did the courtesy of putting the legislature on notice that this is a MAJOR coming attraction.
Understanding that the legislature follows the people, so we’re focusing on our education-oriented mission, continuing numerous initiativesæthrough our working groups (Stimulants Group, Race/Class Task Force, Prevention Working Group et al.)æand our trained speakers’ bureau members will be spreading the messageæto PTAs, churches, Rotaries, chambers of commerce, retirement centers, etc.
We’re getting lots of ink and air time at the moment, as our report’s recommendations are reverberating in the media, and today, Wednesday March 9,æthe full Seattle City Council holds a special meeting on “Changing Drug Policy in Seattle,” which is being orchestrated to deliver very progressive messages – stop automatic arrest and booking, stop buy-bust operations, tell the mayor and police to focus on crimes against persons first, against property second and against drugs last, and even look at the horizon – safe consumption and prescription maintenance.
Smart approaches — and it appears that this group is in for the long haul of drug policy reform. If you’re in Washington State, consider offering to help them. Get someone from their speaker’s bureau invited to your Rotary club. Have your student group invite them to do a presentation on campus, or use their resolution as the basis for a class presentation or paper. Work in public relations? Offer your services to help them get the word out.
Tipping the Balance in Drug Policy Reform
We’ve had a bit of a discussion going on here regarding views as to what will be the event or point that turns things around in drug policy reform. It often seems discouraging with most of the political power structure pushing the drug war and yet I see encouraging signs every day. Some of that is in the desperation apparent in the tactics of pushers like Souder and Walters and Barthwell. The rest is in the determination and intelligence and reach of drug policy reformers.
I think it’ll be like the straw that breaks the camel’s back. You can identify the straw only after the fact, and there’s no way to jump ahead and go right to that straw. It takes all the other straws before it to be placed first.
KCBA is one of those straws. The medical marijuana movement in the states is one – a huge one. Reform efforts in Canada and the European Union are important straws that will eventually cause the U.S. to lose the cover of participating in an international effort. Organizations like Law Enforcement Against Prohibition are critical — sending police officers to talk to communities has real power — and don’t forget to follow the amazing Howard Woolridge and his horse Misty in their ride across the country.
Every one of the organizations listed here are straws. This blog is a straw. Every time one of you does a persuasive speech on the drug war in class, or writes a letter to the editor, or convinces a friend to read about the drug war, or posts a link on an online discussion board — more straw.
The camel may still be pretty mean-looking, and straw doesn’t weigh much, but I see a lot of straw out there.