Blog Post written by SSDP Outreach Intern, Sam McBee
Last Saturday, March 1st, over 100 SSDP students, supporters, and alumni met at the UC Hastings College of Law in San Francisco for the 2014 SSDP Western Regional Conference. The day long conference was packed with events that focused on criminal justice issues, harm reduction, medical research of drugs, cannabis legalization, and professional development. The conference was a great success, and with the pro-reform momentum in the west that was started Washington’s legalization of cannabis, SSDP is more excited than ever to continue supporting the historic progress being made in the Western Region!
Professionals from all realms of the drug policy reform movement joined SSDP at the conference, including representatives from the Drug Policy Alliance, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, DanceSafe, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). Representatives from these groups and many others spoke at various drug policy oriented panels throughout the day.
Professor Alex Kreit, of the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, gave the opening remarks at the conference. Professor Kreit is an SSDP alumnus, and he was one of many other professional academics at the conference who see the problems and unnecessary damages caused by the war on drugs. It is always inspiring to see our alumni continuing to dedicate their time to this movement after they enter the professional world. Professor Kreit discussed a “drug truce” in which reformers will have to explore compromises in order to pass key legislation to end many of the harms associated with our current drug policies.
Two panel events were held following the opening remarks. One panel discussed “California’s Correctional Crisis,” and the criminal justice problem brought about by drug prohibition in California. Panelists explored the current status of California’s unsustainable prison population and why the state is looking to change the sentencing of non-violent drug offenders. The second panel was entitled, “Harm Reduction Strategies: Improving Public Health through Sensible Drug Policy.” Harm reduction is central to the mission of SSDP and many other groups involved in drug policy reform. This panel included Jennifer Johnson, a San Francisco Deputy Public Defender, Laura Thomas of the Drug Policy Alliance, Amanda Reiman of the Drug Policy Alliance, and Justin Talbot from DanceSafe, an organization that focuses specifically on harm reduction strategies.
After a short break for lunch, the drug policy reformers were back at it with three more events before the day concluded. “No Accepted Medical Use’: Current Research into Therapeutic Applications of Marijuana and Psychedelics” was a panel led by Steve DeAngelo of Harborside Health Center and the Arcview Group, Brad Burge of MAPS, and Dr. Donald Abrams of the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. This panel discussed a side effect of the drug war that has caused a countless number of medical patients to go without the option to be treated with certain substances that appear to have therapeutic value such as cannabinoids and psychedelics.
The last event of the day before the closing remarks was probably the most exciting for the many students and alumni who attended. “Effective Advocacy: Finding Your Place in the Movement for Reform” focused on a core aspect of SSDP’s mission, which is to develop successful and professional leaders in the drug policy reform movement. Troy Dayton, SSDP Alumnus and co-founder of the Arcview Group, Khurshid Khoja of Greenbridge Corporate Counsel, Matt Kumin of the Law Offices of Matt Kumin, and A. Kathryn Parker, SSDP Alumna representing the California Appellate Law Group, gathered to give valuable information and insight about how to find one’s place in this exciting wave of cannabis legalization and drug policy reform! Topics of discussion included developing effective skill sets, getting jobs and internships, professional networking, and activism tips from seasoned pros.
After a long and exciting day, the Keynote Address was given by Jeff Adachi, the San Francisco Public Defender. He spoke about the many injustices associated with our policing tactics and sentencing policies for drug possession. He calls the drug war “a war on crumbs”, and believes there are much more effective approaches to drug policy in the US. He was both impressed and inspired by the event, and noted the importance of our role in stimulating the national discussion about adopting new approaches to the way we treat drug users in this country.
SSDP is so thankful for the work of our hosting SSDP chapter at UC Hastings College of Law, our speakers, and the many conference volunteers who helped us throughout the day. This event wouldn’t have been possible without them.
We have several more SSDP regional conferences in the works. So, if you haven’t already, consider registering for our upcoming conferences in the Southern, Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, and Midwest regions.
All pictures by Devon Tackels