By David Borden
We have launched an important and unique new campaign, and I am writing to ask your help -- financial with a donation, activist through the involvement of your own organization, or both.
The campaign is a US-based coalition taking on international drug policy in the US and at the UN. It is the first coalition of its type in drug policy reform. We released our first statement -- a broad and groundbreaking one -- at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs Meeting in Vienna last week. The statement was distributed to the 200 national delegations and agencies in attendance. Over 50 organizations have endorsed the statement so far, some of them major.
This project is important for a number of reasons:
- Marijuana legalization challenges a provision of the UN drug treaties that calls for drugs to be criminalized.
- The treaties potentially threaten US legalization -- when the states of Oklahoma and Nebraska challenged Colorado's law in court, treaty obligations was one of the points they made. I don't believe that US courts will overturn state legalization or that they'll do so because of the treaties, but we can't be sure.
- The treaties deter many other countries that might be interested in trying out legalization from doing so. Having fewer countries to point to as examples in turn makes it a longer road for us here.
- Many other issues are affected by international drug policy as well -- human rights issues, public health issues, economic development, human security, access to medicine.
The reason I'm writing now is that circumstances have lined up to give hope that we can get something done. But those circumstances have also created a need to move further and faster than we can do with our current resources:
- The State Department has called for countries to have the flexibility to experiment with legalization, of marijuana or other drugs -- a 180 degree reversal from the US's longtime global drug warrior stance. But they have also opposed amending the treaties to match the stance.
- Last week the first country, Jamaica, announced it will work for reform of the drug treaties, a game-changer if they can get support from other countries. There needs to be a strong voice from the US supporting them.
- In May the UN in New York will hold a "Thematic Session," on drug policy, pushed for by the government of Mexico against tough resistance, their goal being an "open discussion." Congress is likely to take up its foreign affairs appropriations legislation in June, with hearings before then.
- In late June the UN will hold its annual "International Day Against Drug Abuse," and release its annual World Drug Report, an important moment in the debate on global drug policy. We need to be prepared to make our case in the media and to take part in global demonstrations being organized by reformers.
- All of these events lead up to the April 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS), the biggest major opportunity to engage drug policy at the UN since 1998. The UNGASS was originally to be held in 2019, but was moved up at the request of Latin American governments who stated they want to see change in drug policy.
- Last but not least, one of the most egregious human rights violations in the drug war, the death penalty for nonviolent drug offenses, has provoked outrage in several countries whose citizens face execution in Indonesia and has captured the attention of the media. There was passionate discussion of this in Vienna, and it's going to continue in New York. We need to press the UN and the US government to stop using our taxpayer dollars to fund work in these countries that can lead to executions.
For our coalition to take a forceful stand:
- We need to hire staff for it;
- We need to increase the amount of time that current staff can spend on it; and
- We need to contract for media relations help.
Donations to our tax-deductible nonprofit, DRCNet Foundation, and our non-deductible lobbying nonprofit, Drug Reform Coordination Network, both can be put toward this project and support those needs. Please visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate to donate by credit card or PayPal, or send your check or money order (made out to one of the two names listed above) to P.O. 9853, Washington, DC 20016. We also accept donations by stock -- the information to give your brokerage is Ameritrade, (800) 669-3900), DTC #0188, and account number 781926492 for tax-deductible gifts to DRCNet Foundation or 864663500 for non-deductible gifts to Drug Reform Coordination Network -- please contact us if you are donating in this way.
If your organization can endorse our statement (linked above), or you would like to consider it but need more information, please let us know by replying to this email or writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. I would also be happy to speak with potential endorsers or coalition supporters by phone as well.
Thank you for being a part of drug policy reform and for your support of our work. With your help we will succeed -- time, and the truth, are on our side!