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Debriefing on my SSDP regional conference talk, and SSDP Terps talk

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Thanks again to the Students for Sensible Drug Policy Mid-Atlantic conference organizers for having invited me to speak this past Saturday on a panel about the effects of the drug laws. Attendees came to this Richmond gathering from as far away as Georgia.

I underlined that the drug war was not always as rampant as now. When I was in college in the first half of the 1980’s, colleges did not pillory marijuana as much as today. When I was in public school, interscholastic athletes were not drug tested. Before Nancy Reagan started urging “Just Say No” to drugs, it was unusual for people to be required to urinate in a cup merely to start a retail store job.

I pointed out that the criminal justice system will be much less expensive and higher quality once marijuana is legalized and all other drugs heavily decriminalized, seeing that drug cases drain such a huge amount of resources of courts, police, prosecutors, public defender offices, and court-appointed lawyer programs for indigent criminal defendants.

I encouraged the attendees to make an effort to change public opinion on the drug war one person at a time, starting with talking with at least one fellow guest at next month’s Thanksgiving gathering, even if only to provide a URL to an article on reforming drug policy, and proceeding to discussing the issue on blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other social media, and to get links from their blog and Twitter articles onto comments sections on other people’s blogs.

I admitted that I have felt deep depths of bleakness in the past when fighting for social justice, but have reached the point where I am optimistic about influencing people’s opinions at least one person at a time. As the old proverb goes, “Accumulated feathers sink the boat.” Beyond that, despite all the pushing I do for justice insider the judicial system, we need people pushing for justice from outside the judicial system, as well, and I do some of the pushing from the outside through this Underdog blog.

Some great questions came my way from the audience, including about jury nullification (jurors may not be advised of a right to jury nullification, but lawyers can still humanize the defendant in ways that might lead to nullification); persuading judges off the bench (I tried  giving Justice Scalia an anti-death penalty petition during law school), legislators and executive branch folks; and resources that activists might refer to in understanding the applicable law (the Busted video and my blog are good starters).  

Two days later, on October 11, I appeared again on the University of Maryland campus on a campus SSDP-sponsored Know Your Rights panel, along with Flex Your Rights’ Scott Morgan, and the Students Rights and Responsibilities Office’s Bond — James Bond (he carries a James Bond ID with Sean Connery’s picture). 

I give James Bond credit for coming to this room where likely everyone but him wants the University of Maryland to implement the student referendum from a few years ago for marijuana to be treated the same as alcohol in the student disciplinary process.

I encouraged the audience to spread the following items far and wide to reduce the number of people who get the stunned “aw sh*t” look when I inform them that they would have been wiser to have kept their traps shut with investigating police, and to have refused any and all searches:

– My Know Your Rights video.

– My Top Ten list for dealing with the police.

– The timeless Busted video by Flex Your Rights.