drug policy reformers

Michelle Alexander's Keynote Speech from the 2017 International Drug Policy Reform Conference
Our friend Michelle Alexander, scholar, movement leader, and author of The New Jim Crow, gave an incredible speech to open up our 2017 International Drug Pol...

Enjoy Michelle Alexander’s moving keynote address at the 2017 International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Atlanta on October 12, 2017. Michelle Alexander is a scholar, movement leader, and author of The New Jim Crow.

I do not take lightly the decision to testify against a Senate colleague. But the immense powers of the Attorney General combined with the deeply troubling views of this nominee is a call to conscience. Sen. Sessions’ decades-long record is concerning in a number of ways, from his opposition to bipartisan criminal justice reform to his views on bipartisan drug policy reform, from his efforts earlier in his career to deny citizens voting rights to his criticism of the Voting Rights Act, from his failure to defend the civil rights of women, minorities, and LGBT Americans to his opposition to common sense, bipartisan immigration reform. The Attorney General is responsible for ensuring the fair administration of justice, and based on his record, I lack confidence that Senator Sessions can honor this duty.

This Police Chief Has the Best Possible Response to Marijuana Critics

Washington, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier became a champion for the pro-marijuana community last month when she criticized pot prohibition.

“All those [marijuana] arrests do is make people hate us,” Lanier told the American News Women’s Club, as reported by The Daily Beast. “Marijuana smokers are not going to attack and kill a cop. They just want to get a bag of chips and relax. Alcohol is a much bigger problem.”

Though Lanier added that she doesn’t think marijuana is healthy, her job isn’t to tell people what they can and can’t consume, “I’m not policing the city as a mom. I’m policing it as the police chief — and 70 percent of the public supported this.” Lanier had broached the subject a month earlier as well, telling NewsChannel8, “Marijuana possession has never been a big arrest category. If you’re arrested for possession of marijuana, typically we get it because there’s some other charge and then we find the marijuana in a search upon arrest.”

Are Lanier’s comments part of a growing trend among people working in law enforcement or is she an outlier? Read ATTN:’s roundup of police chiefs across the country,

You Can Now Buy Recreational Weed in Colorado

It’s “a great day in Colorado, not just because marijuana is legal, but because now it is not illegal." 

This morning, Colorado made history as its new marijuana law went into full effect. Recreational marijuana retailers opened their doors to customers — including an Iraq war veteran — for the first time in U.S history.

Colorado residents who are at least 21 can buy up to an ounce of marijuana in one transaction, while people from out of state can buy a quarter ounce. The state projects $578.1 million in annual revenue from combined wholesale and retail marijuana sales to yield $67 million in tax revenue.  

In Washington, where voters passed a similar measure, retailers will begin selling marijuana around June. The state has received 867 retail license applications as of late December.

Remembering Peter Lewis: Billionaire Marijuana Law Reformer

Peter Lewis passed away on Saturday just weeks after celebrating his 80th birthday. He was the chairman of Progressive Insurance and a philanthropist, most notably for marijuana policy reform, to which he has donated well over $40 million since the 1980s.

In 2011, Lewis wrote a Forbes piece explaining why he’ll keep battling drug laws. Here it is:

Billionaire Peter Lewis: My War on Drug Laws

Our marijuana laws are outdated, ineffective and stupid. I’m not alone in thinking this: Half of Americans believe we should stop punishing people for using marijuana. And not coincidentally, more than half of Americans have used marijuana themselves. I am one of those Americans, and I know firsthand that marijuana can be helpful and that it certainly isn’t cause for locking anyone up.

My story is fairly simple. I grew up after college in a world where social drinking was the norm but marijuana was hidden. When I was 39 I tried marijuana for the first time. I found it to be better than scotch. But it wasn’t until I had serious medical problems that I realized how important marijuana could be.

When I was 64 my left leg was amputated below the knee because there was an infection that couldn’t be cured. I spent a year after the amputation in excruciating pain and a year in a wheelchair. So during that period I was very glad I had marijuana. It didn’t exactly eliminate the pain, but it made the pain tolerable—and it let me avoid those heavy-duty narcotic pain relievers that leave you incapacitated.

I am a progressive by birth, by nature, by philosophy—that’s the name of the insurance company I ran as well, which is coincidental—but I am a small ‘p’ progressive. I don’t believe that laws against things that people do regularly, like safe and responsible use of marijuana, make any sense. Everything that has been done to enforce these laws has had a negative effect, with no results.

It’s become sort of a central philanthropic interest of mine—by no means my only interest. But I’m pretty clear. I’ve thought it through, and I’m trying to accomplish something. My mission is to reduce the penalties for growing, using and selling marijuana. It’s that simple.

I’ve been conducting a great deal of research on public opinion on marijuana. Change in this area is inevitable, much like the movement toward equal rights for gays and lesbians. An ever shrinking fraction of the country resists changing marijuana laws, largely for moral reasons. But change is coming. It’s just a question of when and how we get there.

When you think about all the people who have used marijuana—from political leaders to sports stars to corporate executives to people from every walk of life—one way to win this battle is for people to just be honest. If everyone who used marijuana stood up and said, “I use this; it’s pretty good,” the argument would be over.

I’m amazed that anyone could oppose marijuana for medical use. It’s compassionate. Doctors recommend it. But the federal government is so hung up on its war on drugs that it refuses to even allow medical research on marijuana. So I’ve ­supported changing the laws state by state, and I’ll ­continue to do so.

On legalization beyond medical use, we may be some years away, or we may find that we suddenly reach a tipping point, much like the end of alcohol prohibition in the last century. I’m supporting innovative ideas to move toward a system that would regulate, control and tax marijuana.

I’m retired; I have time to work on this, to treat it with the same seriousness that I treated my former work running a large corporation. I care deeply about it. I deeply believe that we’ll have a better country and a better world if marijuana is treated more or less like alcohol.

Thanks to Forbes


Zachary Hammond, a 19-year-old from South Carolina, was shot and killed by Seneca police officer Mark Tiller on July 26 after Hammond allegedly drove a friend, 23-year-old Tori Morton, to a parking lot where police had arranged to purchase drugs from her. The apparent sting operation took a tragic turn when the officer exited his unmarked vehicle, weapon drawn, and shot Hammond twice.

Officials say that dashcam footage of the shooting will be released, but Thom Berry, a spokesman for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, did not say when.

One development that has caught the public’s attention concerns the results of an independent autopsy that Hammond’s family requested shortly after the official report was released. The new report shows that the man was shot in the back left shoulder and the left side of his chest—a distinction, as the New York Times describes it, that “dashed the impression that the officer was going to be hit by the car.”

Read more.