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2017 International Drug Policy Reform Conference Recap


Welcome again to our continuing relentless, persistent journey towards justice, equality, liberty, and an end, an end to the war on drugs, which we know is not a war on drugs, but a war on people. The war on drugs here is an excuse for policies
that have devastated communities across the United States. It’s an excuse for over a million arrests
every year of people who have done nothing more than use drugs personally without harming
others. It’s an excuse for heavy policing of black
and brown communities, which sets the stage for the arrests, the disproportionate arrests,
of people from those communities and sets the stage for police killings of people in
those communities. It’s the excuse for surveillance on a large
scale of people across this country and beyond. It’s the excuse for taking kids from their
parents. It’s the excuse for arresting pregnant women. It’s the excuse for locking up 135,000 people
a day and stripping those people, when they’ve been convicted, of their access to housing,
of access to education, of access to food stamps. It’s the excuse for deporting thousands
of people, tearing them away from their families because of old drug offenses. It’s an excuse for damaging our democracy
by taking away voting rights from millions of people. The war on drugs may not be over, but we are seeing victory. We’re seeing in the last five, ten, fifteen,
twenty years how so many changes have been happening. Marijuana legalization is taking off like
wildfire across this country and we’re starting to get it done right with prop 64 in California last year, which provides for racial justice and reparation and expungement of records.
And we’re going to continue with that in New York, New Jersey, at the federal level,
in New Mexico, and beyond. We are seeing harm reduction entering the mainstream. So many politicians across the country embracing access to naloxone, syringe
exchange, good Samaritan laws, even supervised consumption facilities. We’re seeing criminal justice reform take
off across the country, bipartisan reforms, bail reform, asset forfeiture reform, sentencing reform. And the biggest shift of all, in my view,
is the change in public opinion. You see a growing recognition that illicit
drugs can be used to treat health conditions, like MDMA, which can be used to treat PTSD. People are not just talking about marijuana either. People are talking about all drug decriminalization – it’s okay to push for that. As I see it, any victory that is dependent
on whiteness, in whole or in part, is truly not a victory for us all. Black and brown folks may benefit so long that
the face of drugs is white but the minute that changes all bets are off. I do believe that we must be committed to
placing race and racial justice at the very center of the drug policy reform movement. At the very center. I was never supposed to go to prison for life
without parole for selling drugs. My brother was never supposed to be murdered
in prison because he was an addict. None of my people were su- millions of my
people and your people were never supposed to be incarcerated under this war on drugs,
which is a war against minorities. I don’t believe this country can ever repair
what it’s done to us. I don’t. But what I do think it can do is reckon. Is reckon. And that’s what it refuses to do all of
the time. Instead reckoning its harm, it causes more
harm. I ask you to pray for all the prisoners that
we still hold. 2.3 million of them. I’m tired of overdose vigils, you know? I’m tired of watching people die and watching
people turn away and not do anything. I live in the south Bronx. We have the highest rates of overdose and
at times it’s very chilling to come up to my house and have to look to my left and look
to my right and hope that nobody’s there standing there suffering from an overdose. The death count is not going down. I mean, this is crazy what’s going on. I believe we have a way. I believe it’s here, it’s with us, it’s
with harm reduction. Harm reduction can save us. We are going to transform this country and the world into a place where compassion weighs
more that stigma and cruelty. Where truth and evidence weigh more than ignorance. Freedom more than oppression. Life more than callousness. And justice becomes a foundation for our society. Thank you, everybody.

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