I'm feeling good, really good

     The transformation in public opinion and media coverage about marijuana is unprecedented.  Our credibility and influence as advocates of drug law reform are increasing by the day.  And politicians in Washington and state capitals are saying and doing things about drug policy that I've never heard or seen before. 

            Three major stories about marijuana appeared in The New York Times in the past week, two of them on the front page, and all of them goodFortune magazine had a wonderful cover story last month on legalizing marijuana, and great articles came out as well in New York magazine, Texas Monthly, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and just about every place else.  The discussion about legalizing marijuana was upbeat on, This Week with George Stephanopoulos' this past Sunday.  Even Lou Dobbs hosted a reasonable discussion.  And Newsweek ran a very nice profile on me last week, it was the first time a mainstream publication like that has ever really gotten it. Nadelmann_Soros

            What most stunned me was the Gallup poll released last week on legalizing marijuana.  Support for legalizing marijuana use has almost doubled from 23% in 1985 to 44% this year, but even more dramatic is the rapid increase over just the past four years: ten percent-or-more jumps in support among women, people ages 18-49, Democrats, liberals and moderates, people in the West and the Midwest.  The almost-10 point gender gap back in 2005 has basically disappeared.  Support is 54% among Democrats and 53% among people in the West.  Independents are now split evenly; and support even increased by 7% among Republicans. 

            The Justice Department guidelines issued last week on prosecuting medical marijuana cases are good.  They basically give a green light to state and local governments to get more deeply involved in legally regulating medical marijuana.  Members of Congress are introducing various marijuana law reform bills like we've never seen before.  In California, our good ally, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, held a hearing yesterday on his 'tax and regulate' bill.  It's the most substantive such hearing ever held on the issue (to my knowledge), helped by the fact that Tom is the new chair of the Public Safety Committee.  And there's a very good chance that an initiative to legalize marijuana, spearheaded by a leading medical marijuana provider, Richard Lee, will appear on the 2010 ballot in California. 

            But it's not just marijuana.  The Obama administration and Congressional leaders are moving forward with reforming the draconian and racially discriminatory crack/powder mandatory minimum drug laws, and it also looks likely that the longstanding ban on using federal funds for needle exchange programs to reduce HIV/AIDS will finally be repealed.  The new drug czar sometimes sounds too much like his predecessors but he's clearly more open to dialogue and more supportive of public health approaches than they were.  

            Outside the United States, both Mexico and Argentina recently decriminalized drug possession and other Latin American nations are considering similar reforms.  Portugal, which decriminalized drug possession earlier in the decade, is now being pointed to as a model of sensible drug policy.  Support for heroin maintenance programs keeps growing. Sixty-eight percent of Swiss voters approved prescribing pharmaceutical heroin to addicts in a national referendum, as did the German Parliament a few months ago, while Denmark will shortly become the seventh country to start, but the first to skip the research phase and jump straight to implementation.  The prestigious New England Journal of Medicine recently published a highly favorable evaluation and editorial on the success of the Canadian heroin maintenance trial

            Neither I nor my colleagues at DPA can claim full credit for any one of these developments, but we've been involved one way or another in most of them, pitching the media, shaping stories, advising and lobbying legislators and executive branch officials, helping draft legislation, mobilizing both grass roots and grass tops, building more powerful coalitions, provoking new thinking among professionals who deal with drugs and drug laws, and legitimizing marijuana legalization and broader drug law reform among influential groups that have previously ignored or run from this issue.   Medical Marijuana

            There are two mistakes we could make right now.  The first would be to underestimate the ability of our opponents to undermine and reverse the progress we're making.  But the second could prove even more damaging.  That would be to underestimate the potential for rapid and major reform.  We MUST make the most of our current momentum. 

            I am of course grateful for all you've done, and all you can do, to help. 

            Very truly yours,  Ethan Nadelmann

Drug Policy Alliance



p.s. We expect well over 1000 people at the biennial international drug policy reform conference , in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Nov. 12-14.  It should be an amazing gathering.




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