DPA Founder, Nadelmann, Visits Atlanta to Discuss Marijuana Legalization


With additional reporting by Cheyenne X, Staff Writer

(APN) ATLANTA — Ethan Nadelmann, J.D., Ph.D., Founder and Executive Director of Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), spoke in Atlanta at Manuel’s Tavern on Marijuana Reform on Monday, November 11, 2013.  He also spoke at Emory University during his visit to Atlanta.



DPA is the nation’s leading organization working to end the war on drugs.



Nadelmann founded DPA to help end the failed drug war and promote sensible drug policies grounded in science, compassion, health, and human rights.



Nadelmann and his colleagues have played pivotal roles in most of the major drug policy reform ballot initiatives campaign in the US on issues including medical marijuana, marijuana legalization, prison reform, drug treatment, and asset forfeiture reform.



“America has less than five percent of the population and 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population.  We lock up a higher percentage of our population than any democratic society in history.  When it comes to locking up Black people we leave apartheid South Africa in the dust.  Our rates of locking up Black people exceeds the rates of incarceration in the Soviet Gulag in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.  Georgia and other States in the South are at the far end of being worse than the average,” Nadelmann said.



Nadelmann backs up his statements with a newly released American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report:  “The War on Marijuana in Black and White exposes a racial bias in arrest statistics.  Marijuana use is roughly equal among Blacks and whites, yet Blacks are 3.73 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.”  



In two Georgia counties the disparities are extremely larger.   In Gordon County it is 14.1 times greater for Blacks to be arrested for marijuana possession than Whites – with 1,921 Black arrests to 136 White arrests.  In Fulton County it is 7.5 times greater for Blacks with 1,610 Black arrests and 215 White arrests for marijuana possession.



The reports notes that between 2001 and 2010, there were over eight million pot arrests in the US. That’s one bust every 37 seconds and hundreds of thousands ensnared in the criminal justice system.



Major priorities for DPA are legalizing medical marijuana, decriminalizing drug possession, reducing police arrests, stopping all the penalties, and eventually legalizing marijuana.



“Marijuana arrests accounts for one half of the drug arrests in America,” Nadelmann said.   “Just because you legalize marijuana does not mean you legalize all the other drugs.”



“It is not a moral drug policy to spend tens of millions of dollars on prisons and incarceration instead of schools and programs that can help people get their lives together,” Nadelmann said.



DPA’s website encourages a drug policy model more like Portugal’s post-criminalization policy success.  Portugal decriminalized all low-level drug possession in 2001.  It was a paradigm shift toward expanded access to prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and social reintegration services.



The goal of the policy shift was to adopt an approach to drugs based not on dogmatic moralism and prejudice but on science and evidence.  The criminalization of drug use was deemed a barrier to more effective, health-centered responses and at odds with the principle that people who use drugs deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, reported on the DPA’s website.  



“We need a smarter marijuana policy that taxes, regulates and produces honest drug education to keep kids out of trouble with drugs.  A policy that allows the cops to focus on real crime and puts money in the hands of communities instead of the gangsters,” Nadelmann said.   



According to a new Gallup poll, for the first time 58 percent – a majority of US residents – believe marijuana should be legalized, up ten points from last year.



In recent months, CNN aired Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s documentary on “WEED.”   “We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly seventy years in the US, and I apologize for my own role in that,”  Gupta confessed.



The Georgia Care Project lists several therapeutic applications for medical marijuana.  They include reducing intraocular pressure in glaucoma, reducing nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy, stimulating the appetite for AIDS patients, decreasing chronic pain, and controlling seizures.



Twenty states have legalized medical marijuana, while Colorado and Washington have also legalized marijuana altogether.



I asked Nadelmann about the medical benefits of Ibogaine as a cure for addiction.



“People’s lives have been transformed by medical Ibogaine and there are clinics in Mexico and Europe,” Nadelmann told APN.  He recommended reading Ken Alper’s book, Ibogaine.



Jerry Cameron, a retired Chief of Police from Florida and a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) spoke at the Little Five Points Community Center on “Mass Incarceration and the Destructive War on Drugs.”



During the end of his seventeen-year career in law enforcement he concluded that the “war on drugs” was a not only a total failure but that it had caused tremendous damage to society.



Cameron quoted Seattle’s retired Chief of Police, Norm Stamper, who said, “The drug war has been the single most devastating, dysfunctional social policy since slavery.”



“Most people in state prison for drug offenses have no history of violence or significant selling history.  Most of the people in jail are not big sellers,” Cameron said.



Cameron explained that the big seller is hard to arrest and it takes years of investigation and work.  The little seller is on the street and easy to spot and arrest.  Police are like everyone else they take the path of least resistance, he said.  They get the same amount of credit for arresting the little guy as the big guy.  That’s why the prisons are full of low level dealers and people with possession charges.



Instead of a prison economy, we could have a cannabis economy.  Estimated sales of marijuana in the US is 32 billion dollars a year.  Marijuana is the number on cash crop in the US.   



Enforcing marijuana laws costs the taxpayers about 3.6 billion dollars a year, yet the War on marijuana has failed to diminish the use or availability of marijuana.



Ending marijuana prohibition is the new movement for personal freedom, social justice, and civil rights.



The first Tuesday of every month, Peachtree Normal and others interested in marijuana reform will now be holding a meeting at Manuel’s Tavern from 7pm to 9pm.



APN asked Sharon Ravert, Executive Director of Peachtree NORML, which is an Atlanta chapter of the National Organization for the Reform Marijuana Laws, discussed the current status of marijuana legislation in Georgia.



She noted that legislation was passed to begin medical marijuana research in 1981.



“Unfortunately due to the poor way it was written it was never implemented,” Ravert said.



When asked about potential legislation this upcoming Legislative Session, Ravert said, “James Bell with the GA CARE Project is currently working on potential legislation and Representatives are being interviewed, but no one yet has been picked to carry the legislation forward, nor has the final legislation been drafted.”



For those interested in advocating for legislation in Georgia, Ravert said they should contact their representatives and visit the GA CARE Project website along with the Peachtree NORML website.  “The more support we have the sooner medical marijuana will be legal in the State of Georgia.”












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