The International Drug Policy Reform Conference takes place every two years and draws a wide range of participants including students, grassroots activists, scholars and other researchers, city, state and federal elected officials, people in recovery as well as active drug users, law enforcement officers, treatment providers and public health advocates.
For 2015, we anticipate there willl be over 50 sessions over the course of three days, including several plenary sessions. All sessions are 90 minutes long: usually 60 minutes of presentations or discussion (depending on the format) and 30 minutes of question & answer. The conference program is divided into several topic areas addressing different facets of drug policy information. Rather than through an abstract process, the program is built by the Reform Conference program committee, and speaking roles are by invitation only.
Check back for our full conference program, which will be out in the latter part of 2015!
Criminal Justice Reform
The United States imprisons more people than any other nation in the world. This has led to a crisis in the U.S. criminal justice system, which has disproportionately impacted communities of color. Some conference sessions will focus on critically evaluating our misguided drug laws. Lead by advocates, researchers, practitioners and affected individuals, these sessions will discuss ways to emerge from the current crisis and will feature innovative approaches to end mass incarceration and racial disparities in our criminal justice system.
A number of conference sessions will be devoted to roundtables designed to engage experts, activist, reformers, and those impacted by the war on drugs on the most cutting edge issues and biggest challenges involved in marijuana law reform.
Health and Harm Reduction
These sessions cover what a health approach to drug use could look like, including highlighting effective harm reduction policies such as naloxone distribution and supervised injection services. The harm reduction sessions will bring international experts to talk about harm reduction with emerging drugs and harm reduction behind bars, while the more treatment-focused sessions cover what the research says about new treatments, and how implementation of the Affordable Care Act will affect treatment capacity in the United States.
Our conference serves as the “movement” gathering place where drug policy reform leaders, drug policy reform organizations, experts, policymakers, academicians, researchers, scientists and impacted individuals can share information and findings, develop innovative and cutting edge solutions to drug policy concerns, and strategize ways to effectively organize and mobilize to end the war on drugs.
Drug use and the drug trade are global matters. While the United States drug policies have an impact that resonates around the world, so too do changes happening in other regions resonate within the U.S. and elsewhere. This track will explore what’s happening around the world – where advances in drug policy reform are being made, and where drug war rhetoric and practice are gaining ground. Where are the most exciting changes happening, and how can reformers all over the world join efforts?
We are now in the midst of a psychedelic renaissance, with clinical research studies under way at top medical schools and research institutes worldwide. What new directions will the future hold? What are the indigenous roots of plant-based medicines and what is their relation to Western psychonauts? Are psychedelics a medicine or a sacrament … or something else? How do psychedelics redefine medicine and science, and how can we effectively reintegrate them into contemporary society?
Some conference sessions are focused specifically on providing individuals new to drug policy reform the skills they need to be effective advocates. With fundamentals like fundraising and media outreach to special topics like how to deal with law enforcement and messaging for change. These sessions will be led by field experts and give attendees concrete tools and knowledge they can bring home with them to use in their reform work.
Academic / Scholarly
There is a vast field of academic work about drugs and drug policy, and scholarly work often informs and/or reflects larger debates about drug policy reform. These sessions will examine the role of the academia in drug policy reform and engage participants in the latest research and thinking about drugs and drug policy from some of the country’s leading scholars.
Media and Culture
Some of what we know about drugs and drug policy comes from cultural sources, especially music scenes, TV and movies. These sessions recognize these influences and explore the role traditional and new media play in shaping and reflecting how drugs are perceived within communities of all kinds. The Reform Conference also features screenings of several new documentary and feature films.
Punitive drug policies are often instigated in the name of protecting young people and are traditionally paired with effective, fear-based drug education campaigns. Punitive drug policies also notoriously target young people of color, deepening racial disparities and driving them from their schools and communities. Drug policy reform embraces an alternative approach to youth drug education, one that stresses delaying experimentation and providing young people with credible information and resources about the risks and consequences of substance use. These sessions address what effective drug prevention and education actually look like as well as strategies and social movements to end the school-to-prison pipeline.