The Case For Drug War Reparations


People working to reform our country’s drug policies are increasingly undertaking their work using a reparative justice lens. California’s successful 2016 marijuana legalization initiative, Proposition 64, as well as marijuana legalization bills introduced this year by Cory Booker in the U.S. Senate and by state legislators in New York, include cutting edge provisions to undo the most egregious harms of marijuana prohibition.

The question of reparations and reparative justice has been deeply informed by ongoing work around reparations rooted in centuries of slavery, the Black Codes and Jim Crow laws. And it has been buoyed by the recent successful work in Chicago that provided reparations for the families of those who were the victims of former police officer, John Birge.

More than 1,500 experts and advocates from over 80 countries will gather in Atlanta from October 11-14 for DPA’s biennial International Drug Policy Reform Conference.

On Friday, October 13th from 7:30-9pm, DPA and AFROPUNK will co-host a Town Hall on “The Case for Reparations” featuring the following speakers:

  • asha bandele, Senior Director of Grants, Partnerships and Special Projects, Drug Policy Alliance (moderator)
  • Dr. Iva Carruthers, Co-Founder and General Secretary, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference
  • Janvieve Williams Comrie, United Nations and Human Rights Strategist, Four Americas Consulting
  • Patrisse Cullors, Co-Founder, Black Lives Matter
  • Kassandra Frederique, State Director, New York, Drug Policy Alliance
  • Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, Founder, The Ordinary People’s Society
  • Ira Glasser, Board President, Drug Policy Alliance; Former Executive Director, ACLU

Press are invited to attend, and speakers are available for one-on-one interviews.

“If we are truly committed to ending the drug war and the carceral state, reparations are pivotal,” said asha bandele, senior director of grants, partnerships and special projects at the Drug Policy Alliance. “It is not enough to simply end our destructive drug laws. There is a moral responsibility to make amends for the multi-generational devastation wrought by the drug war and mass incarceration.”

The Reform Conference draws attendees from all around the world who come from across the political spectrum – from those who have seen the worst of drugs and addiction, to hundreds of formerly incarcerated people, to elected officials and policymakers from all levels of government. From those who have never tried illicit drugs, but are outraged at the money and lives wasted due to the drug war, to active drug users doing political organizing in their communities. From student activists and grassroots racial justice organizers, to law enforcement, faith leaders, academics, and marijuana entrepreneurs. What unites this remarkable array of people is a passion for uprooting the drug war – and a yearning for a more just, compassionate and effective way of dealing with drugs in our lives and in our communities.

The conference will take place in Georgia, which has the fourth highest incarceration rate of any U.S. state. Black people in Georgia are incarcerated for drug offenses at twice the rate of their white counterparts, despite the fact that rates of drug use and sales are similar across racial lines.

The conference program is now available. Michelle Alexander, author of the bestseller The New Jim Crow, will speak on a plenary about the war on drugs, mass incarceration and criminal justice.  There will also be a candlelight vigil Thursday night at the Museum of Civil and Human Rights to pay tribute to all those who have perished as a result of the drug war.

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