Press Release

Prominent Latino and Latin American Activists to Attend Biennial 2015 International Drug Policy Reform Conference, Hosted by the Drug Policy Alliance in D.C. Metro Area, November 18-21

Nearly 1,500 Experts and Advocates to Meet and Strategize About Mass Incarceration, Marijuana Legalization, Criminal Justice Reform, Public Health

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<p>Tony Newman (646)335-5384<br />
Daniel Robelo (650) 465-2584</p>

Nearly 1,500 people from around the country and abroad will gather together for the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Arlington, VA November 18-21 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel.

This year, the Reform conference will put a special focus on the impact that the war on drugs has on Latin American and Latino communities – and what these communities are doing to fight back. Speakers include prominent Latino activists and experts from across the United States and throughout the hemisphere, and discussions will cover a range of crucial topics, including ending mass incarceration, police violence and structural racism, marijuana legalization, criminal justice reform, drug education and public health.

Prior to the conference, on Wednesday, November 18, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) and the Drug Policy Alliance will convene a national roundtable discussion on Latinos and the Criminal Justice System in Washington, D.C. The daylong, closed-door meeting will be attended by some of the nation’s leading national Latino organizations, including MALDEF, NCLR, and the Hispanic Federation, among many others.

The following is a sample of the 50+ panels and roundtables that will be featured in the Reform conference program.

Organizing Across Culturas: Working to Advance Criminal Justice Reforms Across Communidades Latinas
Friday, November 20, 2:30 – 4:00pm, Salon C.

  • Advocates from across the nation highlight the impact of the drug war on various Latino communities and share their experiences and strategies organizing Latinos on drug policy reform. What strategies have been successful in engaging Latinos on drug policy reforms thus far? What will it take to effectively organize and mobilize more Latino leaders and communities as we build a movement to end the drug war?

Drug Policy & Immigration Reform: Bridging the Gap and Keeping Families Together
Saturday, November 21, 12:00 – 1:30pm, Salon B.

  • Convictions for minor drug offenses result in harsher consequences for non-U.S. citizens, including deportation and permanent separation of families. Hundreds of thousands of people have been deported from the U.S. in recent years for nothing more than a minor drug law violation. How can states craft legislation to protect people arrested for minor drug law violations from deportation, as well as from loss of federal housing and educational benefits?

The Drug War and the Militarization and Bastardization of Police
Thursday, November 19, 2:30 – 4:00pm, Salon C.

  • Even though some communities have always known police brutality, issues of impunity of action and corruption are now touching upon the mainstream like never before. Supported by lawmakers and the judiciary, the police have become militarized and bastardized. What has caused the condoning of an ever increasing violent police force and how has the politics and violence of the drug trade and the drug war directly assisted with this phenomenon?

Porro, Ganja, Mota, Gras: Models for Cannabis Regulation from Around the World
Thursday, November 19, 4:30pm – 6:00pm, Salon C.

  • What are the world’s most cutting-edge marijuana regulation models? Uruguay became the first nation to legally regulate marijuana; Jamaica passed sweeping marijuana decriminalization reforms that focused on religious rights and therapeutic access; Spain took advantage of a legal grey area to set up hundreds of cannabis social clubs; medical marijuana proposals are sweeping Europe and Latin America; and people throughout Europe are advocating for local marijuana initiatives. How are marijuana reforms being advanced around the world, despite political limitations? And what role does cultural context play in developing safe, ethical and inclusive models for regulation?

We will be live tweeting these sessions using the hashtag #SomosDPA.

In addition to these and other panels, the Reform conference will feature three plenary sessions, mobile tours of Washington, D.C.’s drug war history, and three-dozen community-based sessions led by conference participants – including a meeting of drug policy reformers from across Latin America.

The conference will also host a national live town hall exploring intersections between two of the most vibrant social movements in the country today, reforming our failed drug policies and Black Lives Matter. (Thursday, November 19, 7 pm, Salon B – To listen in by phone, click here to RSVP.)

Finally, the Reform conference will feature four documentary film screenings, including the powerful new documentary Kingdom of Shadows, in which filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz deftly weaves together three distinct stories of people whose lives are entwined in the war on drugs. The screening – to be held on Friday, November 20, 7:15 – 9:15pm, in Salon C – will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Mr. Ruiz and several tireless activists fighting against the drug war in Mexico and the United States – including Jason Hernandez, who served 17 years of a life sentence on a drug charge and is the first Latino to receive clemency from President Obama, as well as María Elena Herrera Magdaleno and Juan Carlos Trujillo Herrera, founders of Familiares en Búsqueda María Herrera, Asociación Civil, México, D.F.

The Drug Policy Alliance is co-hosting the 2015 International Drug Policy Reform Conference with the ACLU, the Harm Reduction Coalition, Institute of the Black World, International Drug Policy Consortium, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Marijuana Policy Project, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Open Society Foundations, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. For a full list of partners, more information on the conference, and registration details: Visit

Conference Program:…