Blogging from the Conference, part 1

Today’s activities are underway at the Students for Sensible Drug Policy conference. I’m going to try to live blog in sections throughout the weekend, so bear with me if some of this is sketchy or paraphrased. It’s all happening too fast to do much editing and re-writes!
Before the start of the opening session, I had the opportunity to meet Howard Woolridge of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. What a ball of fire! You may have heard of his horseback rides across the country wearing a T-shirt saying “Cops Say Legalize Drugs — Ask Me Why.” He’s great fun to talk with and is wonderfully involved in
Opening plenary session began with a very stirring charge by SSDP Executive Director Kris Krane, who established the SSDP’s student activism as the anti-war movement of this generation, and rightly mentioned the drug war as being the underlying source of everything else from the Patriot Act to other abuses in the war on terror.
The opening panel included Steph Sherer, Executive Director, Americans for Safe Access,
Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and Ethan Nadelmann, Founder, Drug Policy Alliance.
All were great — Ethan gave a very powerful speech, including defining the movement (paraphrased)

We care about racial justice, about the constitution, about the U.S. being a responsible member of the world, about not leading the world in incarceration. We are the people who love drugs, who hate drugs and who don’t give a damn about drugs, but we all believe that the war on drugs is not the way to deal with drugs.

Ethan talked about how he sees that the war on drugs is morphing — drug testing, urine testing, air testing, room testing, GPS bracelets — toward a total surveillance society. With prison costs, instead of locking them up, he suggested that we’ll be using surveillance — getting people accustomed to losing little bits of freedom.
The beginnings of a totalitarian society.
He talked about the recent Zogby survery that found 45% of Americans open to the possibility of banning cigarettes, and the disturbing fact that the majority of young people agreed (more than fundamentalists). He talked about how the younger generation has to be smart and not become the creators of the next prohibition movement.

We want policy that is dealing with all substances with maturity and wisdom, not prohibition and idiocy.

Rob Kampia couldn’t be there, Aaron Houston, Director of Government Relations, with the Marijuana Policy Project, gave a updates, including the notion that the Hinchey Amendment is in closer reach after the last election.

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