Seven Lessons We Learned at Reform 2015

Seven Lessons We Learned at Reform 2015

The Drug Policy Alliance hosted their biennial International Drug Policy Reform Conference this past November 18-21, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy was out in full force at this year’s event.

We asked students to tell us some of the most important lessons they learned from the conference.

Sabrina Bode, Hunter College

To be able to foster politics in this new light, to transform the seemingly inevitable ways of our world, and to know that our systems can and will be more just, more sensible, more compassionate, and more humane… are only a few things we gain from being part of the ever-growing family that is Students for Sensible Drug Policy.”

Trevor Thornburg, University of Arizona

I learned that our movement needs to be open to joining other movements like immigration reform when we are presented the opportunity.”

Caroline Naughton, Northwestern University

Our society is addicted to punishment. Yet, we punish addiction.”

Leland Radovanovic, City College of New York Baruch

We shouldn’t shy away from talking about race issues to whites because it makes them uncomfortable. However, we need to use deliberate and inclusive communication. We need to have the conversation over and over again, each time modifying our language for the most impact.”

Monique Chavez, University of New Mexico Law School

“In regards to sacramental use of Ayahuasca, it is a ‘mistake to think this should be underground.’ It isn’t just a plant, it is a sacrament, a tradition. There is science’s view of Ayahuasca versus the people’s view of Ayahuasca.”

Karen Walker, SUNY Binghamton

“Frame reform as a human rights issue! Centering this around mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, and communities that are affected by the negative impacts of the drug war, from prison sentences, to harm reduction, to cartel violence and control, to immigration laws and deportation. This movement is not only about drugs. To paraphrase Ethan Nadelmann, whether you love drugs, hate drugs, or don’t care about drugs at all, we all know that this drug war is causing more harm than good and it needs to end now!”

Sarah Merrigan, University of Nebraska Omaha

“I already knew the RAVE Act was terrible, but I learned Dede Goldsmith is more amazing in person than I ever thought possible.”


These lessons are just a snapshot of the volume of notes and lessons taken by our students. To read a full compilation of student accounts of the conference, check out our full archive of submissions. If you are a student or alumnus who would like to be added to the compilation, please e-mail with your notes.