Tune in this Thursday, Sept. 20th, for Ending the Drug War: An International Challenge” a live-streamed Facebook webinar with experts and social movement leaders from Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, the United States and Canada.

After more than half a century of global drug prohibition, the evidence is clear: the U.S.-led international war on drugs has failed. Rather than keep our communities safe and healthy, drug war prohibition has hit the poor, people of color, and immigrants hardest.

This Thursday, September 20th at 5pm (PT), we will talk about the deadly impact of the drug war across the Western Hemisphere, its impact on immigrants, and our evolving understanding of true national and human security.

Ideas are changing and new policy initiatives are on the horizon. All speakers on this webinar supported and participated in the 2016 Caravan from Honduras to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in NYC.

Donald McPherson from the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition on national reform models.
Zara Snapp from Instituto RIA on drug policy options for the new Mexican government.
Alex Sierra from Centro de Estudios Socio Jurídicos Latinoamericanos on the status of drug policy reform/peace process in Colombia.
Laura Carlsen from the Americas Program on U.S. Military Policy and the new Mexican government.
Miguel Villegas from Reverdeser Colectivo (Mexico) on a new regional paradigm.
Felix Valentin from OFRANEH (Honduras) on the brutal impact of drug war policies and U.S. support for the repressive government in Honduras.


After more than half a century of global drug prohibition, the evidence is very clear: the war on drugs has failed. Far from keeping our communities safe and healthy, it has been used to wage a war on the poor, on people of color, and, increasingly, on immigrants.

Please join us for a one-hour conversation livestreamed on Global Exchange’s Facebook this Thursday from 5 – 6pm PT. Meet a group of experts who have hands-on experience in transforming failed drug war policies with innovative, evidence-based public health and social justice-centered alternatives.

The past decade has seen encouraging developments, particularly at the state and local level. Recreational marijuana is now legal and regulated in nine states. Thirty states plus the District of Columbia allow for its medicinal use. Cities including Oakland, San Francisco, Sacramento and L.A. are implementing programs to increase racial equity in the marijuana industry. Twenty-two states have decriminalized or removed the threat of jail time for simple possession of small amounts of marijuana. And there is spreading bipartisan support for legalizing syringe access; rapid expansion of programs to reduce overdose fatalities; and growing law enforcement interest in harm reduction approaches to policing drug users and markets.

We must continue to turn the tide. More Americans remain behind bars for drug offenses than the number of all Americans incarcerated in the 1980s. Black and Latino people continue to make up a massively disproportionate number of this population, despite using and selling drugs at similar rates as white people. Accidental and preventable drug overdoses continue to kill tens of thousands of Americans — more people than are killed by firearms. And, in the face of a deadly opioid crisis, the Trump administration proposes more of the tried-and-failed same: tough-on-drugs law enforcement that scapegoats immigrants and a just-say-no drug prevention approach, both of which prevent access to life-saving services.

Please join:

Emily Harris from Ella Baker Center for Human Rights on how punitive drug policies have fed the horror of mass incarceration, and the path to reform the criminal justice system.

Armando Gudino from Drug Policy Alliance on how drug policy has been used as a tool to criminalize the poor and communities of color, and on the link between drug war mass detentions and the war on immigrants.

Patt Denning from Harm Reduction Therapy Center on the public health consequences of the “just-say-no” approach to drug use, and how shifting to a harm reduction model is an indispensable part of reducing the harms drugs can cause to individuals and to society.

Chris Wakefield & Kaine Cherry from The Hood Incubator on new efforts to address historic racial inequities that resurfaced in the legal marijuana industry.

Women and the War on Drugs
by Robin Lloyd

The following piece was originally published by Peace and Justice Newsletter of Burlington. The author, Robin Lloyd, is a filmmaker and peace activist from Burlington VT.

I first smoked marijuana when I was thirty years old. I found it to be more fun than alcohol. And more spiritual. It reminded me why I became a Quaker. It helped me see the inner light in people.

The next realization was that it was insane to make this simple plant illegal.  In reading books on the subject I learned a surprising fact: the legal prohibition of cannabis, coca and poppy plants is determined at the highest level, not by God (since after all it is reported that Jesus used a cannabis extract in healing) but by the UN’s Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961.  In 1970, Richard Nixon signed the legislation implementing national prohibition in compliance with the Convention: the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act.

So just to make that clear, US drug policy is determined by a United Nations Convention.

A potentially momentous reconsideration of that Convention will be taking place this April in New York City at the second United National General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS).

I attended the first UNGASS in 1998 as part of the effort by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) to change policy and especially to assert our position that ending the war on drugs is a women’s issue.

Why? There are many things wrong with this War – its racism, its reliance on military solutions – but one not frequently mentioned is its impact on women.

The War on Drugs condones a form of macho violence. In earlier decades, that violence was played out between cops and robbers, then cowboys and Indians, and now the DEA and narco traffickers.

The War allows men to find an excuse to be violent and to militarize societies. Women lose in time of war, no matter what George Bush says.  And what are the results of criminalizing a natural human desire to change consciousness? A massive international slush fund of illegal money funding brothels, gun running, bribes, and casinos: all endeavors that are not much fun for women.

The legal enforcement of prohibition leads to racism and punitive incarceration. On the supply side, the chaos caused when Latin American governments, bullied by the US, agree to spray farmers’ land to destroy coca crops – without asking their permission of course –  in the middle of a civil war, has been an ongoing environmental tragedy and political disaster.

I accompanied a WILPF delegation to Colombia in 1996 and documented our meetings with the courageous but melancholy victims of the war: women heartbroken that their sons were forced to join a paramilitary group to kill other women’s sons who had joined the guerillas. A high point of our visit was a meeting with the secretary of the Small Coca Farmers Cooperative. Olmyra Morales arrived at our meeting at a human rights center in Bogota carrying a small suitcase. Like an Avon door-to-door saleswoman, she set out the healing lotions and teas made from he coca plant and described their beneficent uses.

A year later, WILPF US, under the leadership of executive director Marilyn Clement,  got a grant from the Drug Policy Foundation for a US tour of women survivors of the War on Drugs:  North and South. Olmyra came from Colombia, joining a coca farmer from Bolivia and Peru and an African-American former cocaine addict who was HIV positive – Marsha Burnett from Montpelier VT.

On one of the stops on the tour we met with the staff of a anti-drug abuse program  in Baltimore. It was an amazing but gentle confrontation between women who grew the crops whose product was destroying the communities in the inner city of Baltimore, and those who had to deal with the effects of this epidemic. Who was to blame?  Who was ‘evil’? New insights were gained that day.

The next year Olmyra came back to the US  to testify at the first UNGASS on Drugs in 1998, sponsored by the Transnational Institute from the Netherlands. She and Marsha Burnett were chosen from amongst civil society participants to address (from the balcony) hundreds of diplomats making up the UN Committee of the Whole. They spoke as victims of the supply and demand side of this war.

They held hands aloft and said “We together, representing the two criminalized extremes of the drug problem, say that we are united in seeking a sustainable way of life for our communities…”.

It was moving to hear poor women speaking the truth in those august halls. But did anyone really listen? What was the outcome of that first UNGASS? Titled “A Drug-Free World — We Can Do It!”, President Clinton cajoled the rest of the world into increasing the military response to drug use. The US government was happy to assist Latin American  countries in acquiring high speed motor boats for interdiction and low cost loans to build prisons for drug offenders (and anyone else who offended the state).

A lot of drugs have passed under the bridge since that time. This April, UNGASS II will take place in a much changed atmosphere.  According to the Transnational Institute,  UNGASS 2016 is an unparalleled opportunity to put an end to the horrors of the drug war and instead prioritize health, human rights, and safety.WILPF’s attempt to speak truth to power before UNGASS 1 was a low profile, grassroots effort. By contrast, this April, survivors and victims of this war, north and south, will be traveling as part of a much more robust caravan, starting in Honduras, to present their case to the UN.  Sponsored by Global Exchange, with a large grant from George Soros’s Open Society, this movement for freedom from government oppression has a chance to be a game changer.

To follow the Caravan, and for information on UNGASS,  please go to http://www.globalexchange.org/programs/caravan-peace-life-and-justice. For info on the film Courageous Women of Colombia, visit www.greenvalleymedia.org.