Douglas A. Willinger Review
It was my 16th of these international conferences on drug policy reform- having attended these since the days of the Drug Policy Foundation; the DPF was founded in 1987, holding these conferences annually through 1997 and 1999-2001, and every other year since merging with the Soros funded Lindesmith Institute (itself founded in 1993) and becoming the DPA.
The founding of the DPF by American University professor Arnold S. Trebach, with Kevin Zeese of NORML had been spurred by the 1986 media generated hysteria over illegal drugs – primarily cocaine. Hence by its very timing and naming, the DPF was to address the prohibited drugs and not merely Marijuana (which already had NORML). Zeese and Trebach respectively left in 1994 and 1997, yet the DPF-DPA has had its continuing figures since the early 1990s or late 1980s of Ira Glasser of the American Civil Liberty Union on its Board of Directors, and Ethan Nadlemann, former professor at Princeton University, as featured DPF conference speakers -- including chairing a 1992 panel Is America Exporting Its Problems which he placed me upon - who created the Lindsmith Institute with Soros. Hence these foundations, of which the Alliance is as much as the Foundation, continue along under largely the same leadership for about two decades.
The preface letter in the DPF’s Biennial Report: 1988-1989 dated March 1990 by Trebach and Zeese stated:
excerpt at page 4
“The Drug Policy Foundation was created by people who were convinced that the excesses of the massive worldwide war on drugs were an evil that had to be openly opposed by good men and women everywhere. While the founders of the organization were Americans, they had sympathetic colleagues in many countries who urged them on and joined them in this effort. These citizens and officials constitute what may be termed the loyal opposition to the war on drugs. They support the worldwide effort to control drug-related crime and corruption, to combat predatory criminal syndicate, to ameliorate the tragedies of drug abuse, and to improve public health. But they oppose many of the extremist tactics and counterproductive strategies now used in this effort.
The Foundation believes that peaceful methods offer the best hope for curbing drug abuse while preserving the constitutional rights of all. Through research, education, legal action, and public information programs the Drug Policy Foundation hopes to delineate rational models of effective drug policy reform for the nations of the world. The first step is to convince the public and policy makers that opposition to the drug war is decent and humane….
The Foundation is an education, research and legal center. It publishes books, articles and newsletters; rewards peoples for outstanding achievement in the field of drug policy; responds to media and scholarly information requests; presents regular forums and an annual international conference; and represents in court those wronged by the drug war.
The foundation is a charitable corporation under the laws of the District of Columbia and section 501 ©(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. Thus all contributions to the foundation are tax deductible…”
The early DPF conferences offered such hope, offering hope for such with a broad focus. In 1989, the panels were:
The Impact of Repeal: The Overall Picture; The Politics of Repeal: Obstacles and Possibilities; New Treatment Options After Repeal; Safer Streets After Repeal; Rights and Privacy After Repeal; The Impact of Legalization Upon Producer Countries; Therapeutic Potential of Schedule 1 Drugs; Models for Regulation; Preventing AIDS in a Legalized Society; The Workplace After Prohibition; The Economic and political Impact of Legalization on Consumer Countries; The Impact of Repeal on the Use of Crack and Cocaine; What are the real lessons of alcohol prohibition? Ending Marijuana Prohibition : A Place to Start; Repeal No, the British System Yes; Enforcing Regulation After Repeal; Treatment of Organic Diseases and Pain in a Post Repeal Society; Effective Taxation in a Legalized World Prohibitions Secret: Controlled Drug Use; Lessons from Today’s Legal Drugs; The Effect of Repeal on the Administration of Criminal Justice Education After Repeal; Overcoming International Obstacles to Repeal; Harm Reduction After Repeal
International Currents: Is the Tide Changing?; Drug Users Promoting Risk-Reduction Among Their Own; How to Build a Community Based Drug Policy Action Group; Implications of the Drug War for Legal Principles; The Marijuana User and Grower in Perspective; Cocaine: Trade and Policy; Medicalization: Is it Really Preferable to Criminalization? Attacks on Criminal Defense Lawyers; Drug Education and Youth; Politics of the Disease Concept; Effective Media Strategies and Tactics; The Methadone Option; Alcohol a& Alcoholism: Characteristics of Treatment; Marijuana & Toxicity; Sentencing Consideration; Harm Reduction and Public Health; Victims, Scapegoats and Heroes: The Drug War and the Media; Public Perceptions of the Disease Model; Pharmacology Frontiers; Is the Drug War Aborting Women’s Rights; Ethical Issues in Defense; Protecting Your Clients from the Results of Unreasonable searches; Drug Testing; Meet and Critique the Authors; Needle Exchange: Programs and Politics; Influence State and Local Governments; The Americas: Is the U.S. Exporting Its Problems?; The Topology of a Battle Site: The Emergency Room; Methadone, Heroin and the Community; Revolution on the Bench; Prosecutions of Doctors for Their Presenting Practices; American Cities at War; Addicts Past and Present: How do Current Laws Impact Their Lives?; Drug Prohibition and Legalization: The Economic Perspective; Medical Marijuana: The 20 Years War; assessing Treatment Effectiveness; Therapeutic Potentials for Psychoactive Drugs; Handling Complex Cases; The Thought Police; The Rhetoric of the Drug War; Crisis at Home: The Victimization of Users, Addicts and Their Families; Drug War Profiteering; Doctoring in the Drug War; Legal Seminar Keynote Speeches;
The early DPF conferences were excellent opportunities for introducing new realizations of the broader insanity of the drug war, potentially invaluable for epiphanies of its underappreciated costs, as well as meeting other scholars. I met the author of the book Mamacoca, Anthony Richard Henman at the 1989 conference, with the inclusion of his paper Coca: an Alternative to Cocaine? in the conference paper compendium Drug Policy 1989-90 A Reformer's Catalog. That would help inspire me to make my submissions which the DPF subsequently published in 1990, 1991, and 1992, respectively The Ever Changing Ever Confused Popular Conception of Cocaine; Cocaine Prohibition Water or Gasoline ..., and Cocaine Conversion Onwards To Coca, placing me upon their cocaine panels in 1991 and 1992, and also in 1992, upon Ethan Nadelman’s panel “Is America Exporting Its Problems?”
The papers respectively addressed the confusion about cocaine’s reputation related to its various modes of use/abuse; the effects of prohibition in shifting markets in worse directions; the economic backdrop and its consequences; and of course how to straighten things out. Via these venue I got out my idea of the drug war, based upon sensationalistic hysteria – was done so for economic (mercantilist) reasons rather than that of racism, creating its problems. With cocaine, the “drug war” insanely perverts Coca into problematic concentrated forms of cocaine, while denying the benefits of Coca, for the sake of protecting its competitor plant stimulant of Virginia Bright Leaf Tobacco, as belied by the USDA-AMA published “concerns” and the sales graph of such Tobacco cigarettes. With Coca we have the safest of natural stimulants known to kill no one – being suppressed and perverted for the sake of protecting the most dangerous – Virginia Bright Leaf Tobacco that the U.N. WHO estimates shortened some 100 million lives during the last century. With the whole 1906 US Food and Drugs Act to Harrison Narcotics Tax Act legislative evolutionary process we have the cigarette-pharma racketeering agricultural mercantilism policies set into place during the time the U.S. was constructing the Panama Canal that would have facilitated Coca leaf’s trade to North Atlantic markets. This would be a far cry from Dr. Arnold Trebach’s Heroin Solution favorable look at the Harrison Narcotics Act, which somehow never address the entire USDA-AMA-APhA conspiracy to lock down drug markets. These early DPF conferences, paper compendiums and panels – with a cocaine panel an integral component, were great opportunities to spotlight this agricultural-pharma mercantilism.
1993 started with tremendous drug policy reformist optimism, under the conception that the incoming U.S. President Bill Clinton would somehow be better than his Republican predecessor because Clinton was of a younger generation way more familiar with Marijuana (flawed for assuming that knowledge ruled rather than the good old boys’ clubs of an ancient regime); the DPF’s Trebach would write a letter stating that the DPF was going to expand its efforts. Yet despite being a “Drug” rather than a “Marijuana & Concentrated Drugs” Policy Foundation, the DPF would narrow the window of its mission of public education subsequently- essentially narrowing its focus mainly to the available contraband substances. Hence this would include coverage of Marijuana and of the various concentrated drugs taken in concentrated doses, framed within some concept other than the basic drug, aka a mode of administration or geographic region. But this meant ignoring the basic drug (and drug taking- modes of administration, forms etc- all really crucial to any legitimate discussion about drug use and abuse), along with the broader contexts- e.g. comparative policies. (e.g imagine applying a methadone model to nicotine maintenance- as a medical job creation program). Hence, despite the increasing amount of lip service to the idea of “harm reduction” – of which a switch from concentrated modes of cocaine to coca products would definitely include – and even despite the fact that hysteria regarding cocaine spurred its creation, the DPF began turning away from discussing cocaine directly, including by deleting the regularly held cocaine panel.
Smart Drugs: Fact or Fiction?; Free Market vs. The Public Health Model; Strategies for Drug Harm Reduction; Disease in the Addict Community; Practicalities of Pre-trial Release; How Should Marijuana Be Made Available as Medicine?; Community Policing: Tool of the War on Drugs?; Substance Abusing Women: An International Perspective; Methadone Maintenance in an Age of HIV and Tuberculosis; Ethical Issues in Drug Cases; Rhetoric of the Drug War; Addictophobia: Impediment to Drug Policy Reform; Latin American Perspective; AIDS and Needle Exchange; Federal Sentencing; Drug Policy, Human Rights and Democracy; Syringe Exchange: What Does Power Have to DO With It?; Meet the Author: A Discussion With Lester Grinspoon, M.D.; Matching in Psychotherapy: Optimizing Treatment Approach and Therapist Mix; Forfeiture; Plenary Can Clinton Make A Difference?; Plenary Women Caught in the Crossfire; Taking A Measure of Drug Policy Reform; Conflicting Visions of Drug Policy Reform; Positive Perspectives on Marijuana; Perinatal Addiction: Not an Issue for Virgins; Investing in Children and Youth: Reconstructing our Inner Cities; Dutch Drug Policy: Past, Present, and Future; From Drug Policy to Pharmaceutical Development: Schedule I Controlled Substances for Therapeutic Application; Adolescent Treatment; Perinatal Addiction: Not an Issue for Virgins;
The DPF held a cocaine panel in 1994 – WHO report --- and held my COCA 95- A Necessary Drug Policy Alternative From Abroad. And it has occasionally infrequently spotlighted other highly useful plant commodities long ago steamrolled over into ‘schedule 1 controlled substances with no accepted safety nor efficacy’- sanitizing bullshit as “law”- namely Ibogaine.
Yet it has since declined holding any more coca panels*. (*a sole exception was the year 2000 of what would be the final student paper presentation- handwritten at last moment into the conference schedule), nor any cocaine panels. It would likewise decline holding such proposed panels as (1994) Coca Turning Over A New Leaf For Reducing Health Care Costs (that had the support of its moderator Dr. Lester Grinspoon) and (1997) Tinctures of Opium, Wines of Coca, etc: Popular, Pre-prohibition Uses of Natural Plants Perverted by Drug Prohibition into today's "Hard" Drug Plague.
Alas, someone somewhere within the DFP-DPA has made a decision to ignore the idea of harm reduction to shifting markets from concentrated drugs back to the parent plants, reserving that term far more narrowly upon the substances as now know. So we get stuff as clean needles, safer crack pipes. The stuff now at the margins of society. But nothing about Opium or Coca products, regardless of their safety and efficacy, for we cannot hear about these side by side with ‘licit’ pharmaceuticals and agricultural. Topics as these, along with that of Mercantilism (Market Protectionism) is banned, hidden behind platitudes about racism sexism, and sugarcoated with such regarding human rights and democracy, along with Arnold Trebach’s intellectual sophistry of the 1914 HNC as “progressive”. Though we are discussing basically agricultural commodities – aka Cannabis, Coca, Opium, Coffee, tea and Tobacco, we must continue to speak of these in their respective existing categories – aka Coca is the source of illicit cocaine, while Coffee tea and tobacco are supermarket products containing minute amounts of caffeine or nicotine.
Likewise , we must thus ignore Opium and Coca, as well as ignore Ibogaine as much as we can get away with while maintaining the semblance of credibility of drug policy reform at the cutting edge rather than as a seriously paced agenda.
Indeed, for we are talking about multi trillion $ agricultural and pharmaceutical markets.
Numerous changes in the DPF conference focus since 1993, such as eliminating the regularly held cocaine panel and folding it as a sub topic within a ‘Latin America’ or ‘stimulants’ or ‘hard drugs taking’ panel, suggest this reinforce the idea of these drugs being so dangerous with proclamations of ‘safe injection rooms’ for the sake of something with a definite fear of educating people about the generally forgotten and infinitely safer parent plant substances, as such would threaten significant portions of existing markets in agriculture and pharma, with a hand upon the throttle of DPF-DPA policies. So, regardless of the political crackpot sloganeering of “change”, such is meant to be as incremental and limited as possible, including with drug policy reform organizations- particularly within the Beltway.
This year’s conference followed this overly restrictive approach – one effectively extending the battle against the drug war from something of a few years to a few decades or centuries, even as events overseas ran ahead- particularly this very year’s historic denunciation of the UN Single Narcotic control convention of 1961 by Bolivia under Evo Morales- with not even a single workshop on Coca?
I arrived at the conference on its opening night, during the Wednesday evening reception being held on the 2nd floor of the Bonaventure- a futuristic set of cylindrical glass towers joined together that opened in 1976 with sets of glass elevators akin to those seen in the movie the Towering Inferno that ascend-descend on the outside; indeed a horse was driven into one of these in a scene in the 1996 movie True Lies and is so noted by a plaque. …
The reception, held in the California Room, was packed with people, and lined along its edges with various exhibits by organizations routinely seen at these conference notably Students for sensible drug policy and Law enforcement against prohibition, plus others. Two booths that sick out in my memory are one featuring numerous posters with interesting quotes; the other the presentation of a book – title -- where I met its author who signed me a copy which he there sold me- “World War D”- The Case Against Prohibition; A roadmap to legalization by Jeffrey Dhywood”.
The Thursday morning plenary featured a speech by Ethan Nadelmann.
That was followed by several sets of smaller breakout panels, about 5 or 6 held simultaneously- and hence impossible to all attend. My initial comfort at the idea of simply viewing perhaps purchasing audio or video tapes of the breakout panels, was quickly dispelled by the lack of any visible videoing of these panels (and presumably no audio equipment) , to record these, beyond any that may have occurred amongst the audiences. This was a disturbing trend at these conferences which in years past had been audiotaped if not videotaped either by the DPF-DPA or an independent service such as Jim Turney’s Liberty Audio that did these during the 1990s and earlier, for both the plenaries and the breakouts (only the plenaries were videotaped for 2011). If it had been a budgetary issue, why was their no private service or at least a call by the DPA requesting volunteers amongst the conference goers- a number I spoke with would have been more than happy to have done so? Sad, considering the public education mission that so much would go unrecorded- as if that only the few hundred conference attendees should be able to see/hear these numerous workshops.
LINK- 2011 Conference Panels
The various presentations that I attended left me with these highlights:
… profits were bad … hmm what about coffee tobacco …
… calling them out that will piss them off to delay things another 5 years out of spite….
At a plenary we saw girl translator with a male speaker, telling us:
- get rid of the guns, as if operation fast and furious meant we should get rid of the 2nd amendment.
Perhaps the most useful panel was that on Psychedelics.
Colletta Youngers was there for her generally regularly held ‘Latin America’ related panel, and asked a few questions concerning Coca toward the end. Stuff as ‘Pushing the Envelope: Supervised Injection Facilities and Other Good Ideas’ simply reinforce the popular conception of cocaine as something to suppress (and ensure as a concentrated drug only) rather than a successful alternative to caffeine and nicotine- hence slowing AND limiting drug policy reform by preserving fear of such drugs all to the benefit of the status quo. The mass media has done that for decades for the general public- in the tradition of William Randolph Hearst. But how best to present such an idea not to the general public, but to drug policy reformists?
Showcasing such, came via the plenary speech by Ira Glasser.
.. liken our battle as one taking perhaps 300 years...
And the audience gave him a standing ovation!
DPF Biennial Report 1988-89
Underselling "Harm Reduction"
Ignoring Agricultural Mercantilism