2020 National Drug Policy Reform Seminar Schedule

Each segment includes a 15-minute live Q&A. To submit questions, visit the Livestream page during the seminar.

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12:00pm EST - Welcome

Introduction and opening remarks from NDPRS organizers.

12:05pm EST - Video Remarks from Rep. Hakeem Jeffries

Join us for video remarks from Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). Jeffries represents the diverse Eighth Congressional District of New York, an area that encompasses large parts of Brooklyn and a section of Queens. Serving his fourth term in the United States Congress, Rep. Jeffries is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and House Budget Committee.

Rep. Jeffries is Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, having been elected to that position by his colleagues in November 2018. In that capacity, he is the fifth highest-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives. He is also the former Whip of the Congressional Black Caucus and previously co-chaired the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee where he helped develop the For The People agenda.

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12:10pm EST - The History of the War on Drugs and the Case for Full Decriminalization

In June 1971, President Nixon’s administration declared the start of a “war on drugs,” placing cannabis in the Schedule 1 category, the most restrictive classification. By the 1980’s, with President Reagan in office, drug enforcement picked up steam, and incarcerations rose dramatically, hitting communities of color and low income communities at a disproportionate rate. Nearly 40 years later, according to 2020 research by the ACLU, “Black people are 3.64 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession, notwithstanding comparable usage rates.” How did the war on drugs lead to today’s racial disparities in the criminal legal system? How does drug decriminalization promote racial justice? What steps can a new administration take to eliminate policies that disproportionately impact communities of color?


Eunisses Hernandez - Co-Executive Director, La Defensa
Mitchell Gomez - Executive Director, DanceSafe
Gina Clayton Johnson - Movement for Black Lives
Moderated by: Maritza Perez - Director, Office of National Affairs, Drug Policy Alliance


TAKE ACTION to free incarcerated people in the midst of this pandemic, including people behind bars for drug offenses.

The Breathe Act

Dismantling the Drug War: A Comprehensive Drug Decriminalization Framework

1:00pm EST - Video Remarks from Rep. Barbara Lee

Join us for video remarks from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)

Congresswoman Barbara Lee was born in segregated El Paso, TX and attended St. Joseph’s Catholic School, where she was taught by the Sisters of Loretto, an order dedicated to promoting justice and peace. Her father was a veteran of two wars and her mother broke many glass ceilings and racial barriers. After grammar school, Congresswoman Lee moved to San Fernando, California and worked with the local NAACP to integrate her high school cheerleading squad.

As a single mother raising two sons, Congresswoman Lee attended Mills College and received public assistance while building a better life for her family. As president of Mills College’s Black Student Union, she invited Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress, to speak on campus. As a result of this meeting, Congresswoman Lee registered to vote for the first time and worked on Congresswoman Chisholm’s historic presidential campaign, including serving as her delegate at the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami, FL.

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1:05pm EST - The Advocates Behind the MORE Act

In November 2019, the House Judiciary Committee passed The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement Act (the MORE Act), requiring Federal courts to expunge prior convictions, removing cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances, and allowing states to establish their own cannabis laws. While obstacles in the full House and Senate votes lie ahead, advocates of the MORE Act are optimistic that broad national support from voters, an increased public focus on social equity, and the potential to boost the economy have positioned the bipartisan legislation on the path to victory. Does the MORE Act go far enough to repair the damage done by the war on drugs and to bolster a new industry? What challenges and/or opportunities do Advocates see for the MORE Act based on the outcome of the November election? What recommendations are Advocates preparing to share with a new administration?


Queen Adesuyi - Policy Manager, Drug Policy Alliance
Paul Demko - Cannabis Editor, POLITICO
Justin Strekal - Political Director, NORML


TAKE ACTION: Contact Your Lawmakers In Support Of The MORE Act

How to End Marijuana Prohibition with Regards to the Controlled Substances Act

Op-Ed: Wednesday's Marijuana Legalization Vote Was Truly Historic - Here's Why

Op-Ed: 20 Ways to Address Marijuana Reform Amid COVID

Marijuana Justice Coalition

Students for Sensible Drug Policy: We Deserve MORE

1:50pm EST - Video Remarks from Rep. Earl Blumenauer

Join us for video remarks from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

A lifelong resident of Portland, Oregon, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (OR-3) was raised in SE Portland and attended Centennial High School.

While still a student at Lewis and Clark College, Earl spearheaded the effort to lower the voting age both in Oregon and at the national level. He was elected to the Oregon Legislature in 1972, where he served three terms and Chaired the House Education and Revenue Committee in 1977-78. In 1978, he was elected to the Multnomah County Commission, where he served for eight years before being elected to the Portland City Council in 1986. There, his 10-year tenure as the Commissioner of Public Works demonstrated his leadership with innovative accomplishments in transportation, planning, environmental programs and public participation that helped Portland earn an international reputation as one of America’s most livable cities.

Elected to the US House of Representatives in 1996, Earl created a unique role as Congress’ chief spokesperson for Livable Communities: places where people are safe, healthy and economically secure. From 1996 to 2007, he served on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where he was a strong advocate for federal policies that address transportation alternatives, provide housing choices, support sustainable economies and improve the environment. He was a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee from 2001 to 2007, and vice-chair of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming from 2007 to 2010. He is currently a member of the Ways and Means Committee, Chairman of the subcommittee on Trade and is a member of the subcommittee on Health.

These committee assignments give Earl a unique platform to promote critical issues like health care reform, Medicare for All, and the Green New Deal to combat global warming. His priorities also include healthcare reform, honest trade, financing critical infrastructure, building livable communities in a global economy, economic security for working families, protection of public lands, stopping gun violence, ending the prohibition of marijuana and criminal justice reform.

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1:55pm EST - Winning with Marijuana in a Swing State

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, in 2018 nearly 16 million Wisconsin voters representing 16 counties and two cities voted “yes” on no-binding referendums on medical and recreational cannabis in the state. At the same time, Wisconsin candidates supporting marijuana won 5 constitutional offices. Broad support for cannabis legalization in swing states like Wisconsin show that ending prohibition is a nonpartisan issue, so what’s holding back lawmakers in changing state statutes to respect the will of voters? What is the current state of legislation in Wisconsin and what are the obstacles for marijuana legalization? Have we reached a tipping point where opinions on cannabis are a deciding factor for candidates in swing states?

Video Remarks:

Rep. Melissa Sargent - Representative, Wisconsin's 28th Assembly District
Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes
- Lieutenant Governor, State of Wisconsin


Senator LaTonya Johnson - (D-Milwaukee) Wisconsin State Senate
Rachael Steidl - Deputy Director, Southeastern WI NORML
Alan Robinson
- Executive Director, Wisconsin NORML


NORML: Pledge to Vote for Marijuana in 2020

Thirty-seven States Enacted Cannabis Reform, Wisconsin is Not Among Them

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, State Democrats Call for Marijuana Decriminalization

Rep. Melissa Sargent: It's Time for Wisconsin to Fully Legalize Marijuana

3:05pm EST - The Intersection Between Climate Justice and the War on Drugs

According to an environmental justice study by the University of Michigan and the University of Montana, "Hazardous waste sites, polluting industrial facilities and other locally unwanted land uses are disproportionately located in nonwhite and poor communities." This inequity is referred to as "environmental racism," and it has resulted in significant health disparities in communities of color; environmental racism has even been identified as a factor contributing to major racial differences in covid-19 hospitalization and death. These are the same communities that are targeted by punitive drug policy, resulting in mass incarceration that has impacted generations. What policies lie at the intersection of drug policy reform and environmental justice? How can changes to environmental protection policies and the Controlled Substances Act advance racial justice? How does this relate to the current political moment?


Joshua Alvarez - Hub Council Member, Sunrise Movement
Erica Darragh
- Board Member, Students for Sensible Drug Policy
Jason Ortiz - President, Minority Cannabis Business Association


How Climate Justice Could End the Drug War

Intersecting Movements: Drug Policy Reform and Climate Action

Targeting Minority, Low-Income Neighborhoods for Hazardous Waste Sites

Connecting the Dots Between Environmental Injustice and the Coronavirus

The Movement for Black Lives and Environmentalists Are Finding Common Ground

The Drug War is the New Jim Crow

The New Face of Climate Activism is Young, Angry — and Effective

3:55pm EST - Video Remarks from Sen. Ron Wyden

Join us for video remarks from Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Wyden is an American politician serving as the senior United States Senator for Oregon. A member of the Democratic Party, he previously served in the United States House of Representatives from . He is the current dean of Oregon's congressional delegation.

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4:00pm EST - Equity and the Federal Regulatory Framework

During a February House subcommittee meeting on banking services for the cannabis industry Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez asked, “Is this industry representative of the communities that have historically borne the greatest brunt of injustice based on the prohibition of marijuana?” Her question probes the criticism that the cannabis industry is only open for business to those with great wealth, leaving no pathway for others, especially those punished under prohibition-era laws. Advocates argue that equity must be a cornerstone of any cannabis regulatory framework. How can a framework promote equity and strong industry? Can regulations be used to address barriers to entry into the industry? Can true equity be achieved without legalization at the federal level?


Jason Ortiz
- President, Minority Cannabis Business Association
Dr. Rachel Knox, MD, MBA
- Endocannabinologist and Cannabinoid Medicine Specialist
Khurshid Khoja
- Founder, Greenbridge Corporate Counsel
Dasheeda Dawson
- Cannabis Program Supervisor, City of Portland
Moderated by: Amber Littlejohn - Senior Policy Advisor, Minority Cannabis Business Association





5:00pm EST - End of Program

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