For nearly a century, U.S. drug policy has been characterized by the punitive prohibition of illicit drugs, with "zero tolerance" for drug users, producers and traffickers. This bipartisan policy has cost hundreds of billions of dollars and produced an incarceration rate that is by far the highest in the world. And yet, the number of American citizens with substance abuse problems has remained remarkably stable over the last 30 years, and illicit drugs remain easy to obtain for those who want them.
Public support for the war on drugs has dramatically decreased, but there is less agreement over what polices should replace drug prohibition. On Friday, March 9, following a keynote address by noted travel writer, public television producer and public radio host Rick Steves on the previous evening (Thursday, March 8), the Baker Institute will host a conference titled "The War on Drugs Has Failed. Is Legalization the Answer?" Able and respected defenders of current policy, leading advocates for reform and academic researchers will discuss and examine key issues such as alternatives to prohibition, effects of the war on drugs on minority communities and international efforts to reduce the harms of drug abuse.
Watch the entire conference:
- Video 1: Keynote Address: Rick Steves
- Video 2: Examining the Premise, Considering Alternatives
- Video 3: Law Enforcement Perspectives
- Video 4: Marijuana
- Video 5: Michelle Alexander,"The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness" from Wisconsin Public TV.
- Video 6: Are Current Drug Laws the New Jim Crow?
- Video 7: International Alternatives and Insights
- Video 8: The Honorable Larry W. Campbell, Senator, Parliament of Canada
Thursday, March 8
7:00 pm -- Keynote Address: Travel as a Political Act, with a European Take on America"s War on Marijuana
Rick Steves, Travel Writer; Host of "Rick Steves" Europe" and "Travel with Rick Steves"
Friday, March 9, 8:30-4:00 (all sessions plenary)
8:30 am -- Welcome and Introductory Remarks
William Martin, Ph.D., Harry and Hazel Chavanne Senior Fellow in Religion and Public Policy, James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy
8:45 am -- Examining the Premise, Considering Alternatives
Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director, Drug Policy Alliance
John J. Coleman, Former Administrator, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; President, Drug Watch International
9:45 am -- Law Enforcement Perspectives
The Honorable Patricia R. Lykos, District Attorney, Harris County, Texas
Michael Dirden, Executive Assistant Chief, Houston Police Department
The Honorable Michael McSpadden, Judge, 209th Criminal Court, Harris County, Texas
Russ Jones, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
10:45 am -- Break
11:00 am -- Marijuana
Russ Belville, Outreach Coordinator, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
Kevin A. Sabet, Ph.D., Former Senior Adviser, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (2009-2011); Assistant Professor, Division of Addiction Medicine, University of Florida College of Medicine
Noon -- Lunch
12:30 pm -- Are Current Drug Laws the New Jim Crow?
Video: Michelle Alexander, Professor, Moritz College of Law, Ohio State University; Author, "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness"
The Rev. Edwin C. Sanders II, Senior Servant, Metropolitan Interdenominational Church, Nashville, Tenn.
1:30 pm -- International Alternatives and Insights
Europe: Policy Alternatives in Portugal, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe
Alex Stevens, Ph.D., Professor in Criminal Justice, University of Kent, United Kingdom
Gary J. Hale, Nonresident Fellow in Drug Policy, James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy; Retired Chief of Intelligence, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
Bill Piper, Director of National Affairs, Drug Policy Alliance
3:00 pm -- Break
3:15 pm -- Closing Plenary
The Honorable Larry W. Campbell, Senator, Parliament of Canada; Former Member, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Drug Squad; Former Chief Coroner, British Columbia; 37th Mayor of Vancouver