Drug Policy Alliance Conference in Lost Angeles brings together anti-Drug War activists amid increased hostility to reform from the federal government.

Attracting national figures like former New Mexico Governor (and current Republican presidential candidate) Gary Johnson, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, PBS travel host Rick Steves, and even a Skype appearance by Virgin CEO Richard Branson, the 2011 International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Los Angeles brought together leaders of the global ant-Drug War movement for a bi-annual meeting of the minds held amid an air of uncertainty regarding the federal government’s renewed attempts to “crack down” on medical marijuana.

Sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates for the legalization of all drugs, the Reform Conference featured over 1,000 attendees from more than thirty nations and dozens of activist organizations to discuss their own struggles and achievements in ending the War on Drugs, and to discover new ways to work together and support each other’s efforts. The event kicked off with a public rally and concert in MacArthur Park featuring speakers from across the drug law reform spectrum, plus live music and inspirational spoken word performances.

At the event’s opening session, Lieutenant Governor Newsom expressed his hope that California could lead the way in fighting back against the Federal government’s oppressive tactics. He also attacked the wider War on Drugs as destructive to both society and the government, including the resulting boom in the United States’ prison population. In 1980, according to Newsom, America incarcerated 500,000 prisoners, a population that has since grown to more than 2.3 million.

“At what point is this not code red?” Newsom asked. “What the hell are we doing?”

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Other highlights included highly distinguished panels covering topics ranging from the current state of medical cannabis nationwide and a preview of upcoming marijuana legalization ballot initiatives, to in depth looks at the efforts to support Drug War reform in Latin America, the latest in psychedelic research, new approaches to harm reduction, and much more. The conference concluded with an awards banquet honoring top activists from across the Drug Law reform community.

The following Monday, DPA Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann followed up with an Op/Ed column in the New York Times entitled Reefer Madness, outlining the Obama administration’s disappointing willingness to continue Bush-era drug law policy, and calling for a new way forward based on science, reason and compassion.