MTCIA Members Report from the Drug Policy Alliance Conference

A Montana delegation of 13 MTCIA members attended the Drug Policy Alliance conference in Los Angeles last week. Below are some standout impressions, themes, quotes, and ideas that our people took away from the event.


  1. The point isn’t to win the war on drugs, but to end it.
  2. The movement is multi-generational, multi-racial, and includes “the people who love drugs, hate drugs and everything in between. We are black, white, and everything in between.  We are straight, queer and everything in between.” (Ethan Nadelman)
  3. Law students are the future of the law and important people in the drug policy conversation.
  4. The best indicator of a positive decriminalization or legalization vote is if someone knows a medical cannabis patient. Patients need to come out.
  5. The national money people want BOLD & win-able campaigns
  6. District attorneys and prosecutors like mandatory minimums because it gives them leverage to create informants.
  7. We are the “Radical Center”
  8. Unethical players need to be called out.
  9. Whereas education can generate more general support for an issue, it doesn’t necessarily translate into support for a specific initiative or policy objective.
  10. Addiction is treated like a criminal character flaw instead of a disease. Thus, the health care system discriminates against those with addictions.
  11. When it comes to medical cannabis, the public needs reassurance on minors, and road and occupational safety issues.
  12. We need to teach by example, be respectful, and conduct ourselves respectably.
  13. Most people do not spend much time studying current events in national  marijuana policy.  Many at the conference (“players”) thought Montana was politically dead on this issue.
  14. Every battle is a singular battle in a small part of the arc of the war.  It did not start with Nixon, it did not start with prohibition, it’s a social justice war that has been fought for centuries. 
  15. The harm reduction movement/angle is important. This is the message that the harm caused by the drug war is greater than the harm caused by drugs. .
  16. The most valuable thing the old warriors can do is pass the baton to the new, young warriors in this battle.
  17. The success in producing quality regulations is critical to achieving legalization of adult use of cannabis.
  18. Access to medical cannabis is rooted in civil disobedience. Anyone using or providing medical cannabis is engaged in an act of civil disobedience.
  19. “If we don’t compromise on principle, eventually, they will have to address our principles.”
  20. Dollars generated in medical cannabis sales need to be re-invested into the movement.
  21. The people who fight the drug war are from all walks of life and came to their decision and opinion for many different reasons.  We have many people on our side: cops, doctors, addiction counselors, social workers, gun owners, formerly incarcerated citizens and their families, drug war widows and widowers, and parents who have lost their children. Cannabis patients are just one slice of the pie. 
  22. In regards to work to do and roles to play: “There’s enough for everybody.”

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