Podcast: Michael Collins Deputy Director at the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs Explains How To Influence Legislation
Deputy Director at the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs in Washington, D.C, is Michael Collins. He works with Congress to effect change in legislation on a wide variety of drug policy issues including ‘the war against drugs’, access to sterile syringes for drug users, appropriations, and Latin America. Originally from Glasgow in Scotland, he has lived in France, Spain and Mexico, before he moved to the U.S.
In this podcast he explains the tactics and techniques which need to be employed in devising strategy to change legislation and policy surrounding the “War on Drugs” which consistently brings about costs and harms it seems to everyone concerned.
Delivered as a workshop in Newcastle called ‘Truth to Power: Creating effective campaigns’ put on by community organisation Recovering Justice, this was attended by a number of individuals all concerned with the detrimental effects of demonizing drugs policies.
One of the key individuals in initiating the Drug Policy Alliance was Ethan Nadelmann who is involved in campaigning to make changes to drugs policy so that it is informed with scientific evidence so that a more just society is brought about.
With a particular focus on compassion, health and human rights, the organisation spends time engaging in political processes with politicians to move regulations on from punative stances which just compound the damages done to various sections of the population.
Acting to voice concerns for the liberty of people who have suffered from the fear and prejudice used to dehumanise and ostricise individuals for what they put in their body, the organisation was brought about through the merging of the Lindesmith Center and the Drug Policy Foundation.
It advocates for public health over criminal justice raising awareness of the rationale behind harm reduction approaches.
The presentation given by Michael Collins covers an array of approaches to influencing legislation. Whilst is it informed by the experience he has gained largely in Washington D. C. he suggests that there are some transferable understandings to the British context. He explains how it is a strategic project to effect change and that politicians really are unconcerned with evidence and more swayed about what will get them elected and promoted in the hierarchies of political power.
He mentions the Marijuana Policy Project which advocates for the regulation of cannabis as the criminalization of people who use it is a detrimental force in society. Prohibition as a course of action has systematically failed in various areas, only succeeding in creating and curating a whole underclass of people.
Another project he mentions is Transform, an organisation campaiging for “A global system of drug regulation and control that protects people, and promotes peace and security, sustainable development, health and human rights”. Their mission is to educate and motivate politicians and policymakers to ‘explore and implement the effective legal regulation of drug markets’.
At the moment in Scotland, this kind of considered research has to be taken into consideration as ten years of drugs policy is now in the process of being reviewed, developed and/or renewed. Drug deaths have gone up radically and how this is being met is being decided.
Whilst the punative approaches are filling the prisons up and criminalising people ensuring that they will be ostricised from taking part in culture and economy, the evidence for harms from those drugs currently regarded as illegal dont stack up against the harms of drugs such as alcohol.
Evidence based policy is sorely lacking as ideological considerations dictate how governments are acting. This podcast is part of a project which aims to uncover some of the realities which make up the big picture