At least 500 students and advocates from different states and nations had participated in the Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) International Conference held between April 15 and 17 to discuss about the present state of drug policy and plans for future reforms.Marijuana legalization was the main topic asmore U.S. states gear up to legalize medical or recreational marijuana in the month of November.
In this connection, Lyn Ulbricht, the mother of Ross Ulbricht, the founder of the Silk Road marketplace, was among the speakers at the SSDP gathering. Other speakers include academics, elected members of the government, law enforcement and medical professionals. Ross Ulbricht is currently serving a life sentence in prison as punishment for many charges, including conspiracy with vendors to sell banned/illegal drugs through the Silk Road.
Demonstrations by both allies and studentsfollowed after the conference, whogathered outsideof the United Nations conferenceon the worldwide drug war.The protest occurred in time for the UN General Assembly Special Session on drugs, among the first ones to be organized in a span of two decades.
The young activists’ contention has been that officials always justify harsh actions on drug offenders as the right method to protect vulnerable youth from falling prey to destructive drug habits. However, the whole process has put youth at greater risks such as racial disparities during enforcement of drug laws, use of resources for building prisons instead of schools, provision of lesser funding for implementation of proven drug harm reduction strategies, among others. All these have caused much more harm, the young voices contend. The youth are looking to voice their opinion on how to change and combat drug use in the communities in which they live.
In more than five states in the US, voters may be casting their votes to legalize and regulate the use of marijuana in the month of November this year. This means a doubling of the number of states that are looking to end prohibition. It is also expected that the states of Florida and Ohio, that are considered important presidential swing states, will be casting their votes for ballot measures on medical cannabis. These are seen as important developments. In the past years, the youth activists have put in efforts to get as many young supporters of SSDP to find their way to get to the polls (in specific states) in a bid to increase youth turnout. The international arm of the SSDP made use of phone-banking to help supportive voters reach the poll venues.
Lyn Ulbricht, mother of Ross Ulbricht, the Silk Road founder, has relocated from Texas to New York to be near her son who is serving a prison sentence. She has also been giving speeches, raising funds for her son’s appeal and making appearances in the media in an effort to educate the public about the issues in her son’s case. She has repeatedly stated that her son did not create the Silk Road as a drug site and is only a free market libertarian. She believes that he was sentenced because he was a political threat and the sentence meted out to Ross Ulbricht was draconian.
She believes that he is being penalized for all the drug lords that they have not arrested yet. The drug war that has been going on for the last 40 years are only increasing the number of persons convicted for drug crimes, some of them falsely, while the problem still continues to fester. The drug war has not stopped too many from doing drugs, she adds.