Last week, more than 1,200 drug reformers from around the world gathered in Denver at the International Drug Reform Conference to talk about policy reform and find "an exit strategy from the war on drugs," as Tony Newman with the Drug Policy Alliance said in a statement about the conference.

One of the most energetic and impassioned speeches over the three-day conference was delivered by Drug Policy Alliance executive director Ethan Nadelmann who said that the world has hit "the tipping point on marijuana."

"[It's] Because of what Colorado and Washington did and what Uruguay is going to do," Nadelmann said, referring to both states' legalization of recreational marijuana in 2012 and Uruguay's expected passage of its own marijuana legalization laws, which will make it the first country in the world to establish rules for the production, distribution and sale of marijuana for adults. Nadelmann also cited the Department of Justice's decision to let Colorado and Washington's new marijuana laws go into effect without a challenge.

"And we've hit the tipping point because 58 percent of our fellow citizens say it's time to legalize marijuana," Nadelmann said to applause from the conference audience.

Just last week, Gallup released a poll showing that 58 percent of Americans think that marijuana usage should be made legal, which is the first time in U.S. history that more than half of Americans have expressed support for legalization.

Although marijuana policy reform has come a long way recently, Nadelmann was quick to stress that more work is still needed. "We may be at the tipping point with marijuana -- two states down, 48 to go. And hopefully one country down, 200 to go -- that's a long way to go. So we have to be smart."

He explained that "being smart" means states like Colorado and Washington will have to bear the burden of leadership in the end of pot prohibition. "Your system is going to have to be tighter and more restricted and constrained than sometimes seems reasonable -- so that the rest of the country can be reassured that this is the right way to go," Nadelmann said.

American drug policies are complex and tied to many national systemic problems that also need solving, including mass incarceration and racism, Nadelmann said. He added that if the U.S. is at a tipping point with marijuana then "we're only at a turning point when it comes to mass incarceration in America."

"We have, in America, been truly exceptional," he said. "Nobody in the history of democratic society has locked up fellow citizens in the way we do. Nobody has. Nobody has locked up black people the way we do. Nobody did these sorts of things."

"I am fighting so that America becomes average."

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  • Because Most Americans Are Unenthusiastic About It

    Only 7 percent of Americans think the United States is <a href="http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/lifestyle/general_lifestyle/november_2012/7_think_u_s_is_winning_war_on_drugs">winning the war on drugs</a>, and few Americans are interested in throwing down more money to try to win, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll released in 2012.

  • Because The U.S. Won't Control The Flow Of Guns Into Latin America

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/01/mexico-guns-arturo-sarukhan-us-weapons-mexico-violence-gun-rights_n_1563250.html">Mexican authorities seized almost 70,000 weapons of U.S. origin</a> from 2007 to 2011. In 2004, the U.S. Congress declined to renew a 10-year ban on the sale of assault weapons. They quickly became the guns of choice for Mexican drug cartels. Some 60,000 people have died in Mexico since President Felipe Calderón launched a military assault on the cartels in 2006.

  • Because The United States Leads The Hemisphere In Drug Consumption

    Americans have the <a href="http://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/files/serve/?File_id=81b53476-64a3-4088-9bae-254a84b95ddb">highest rate of illegal drug consumption in the world</a>, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

  • Because The U.S. Ignores Latin American Calls For A Rethinking Of Drug Policy

    Several current and former Latin American presidents, like Fernando Henrique Cardoso, have <a href="http://www.globalcommissionondrugs.org/">urged the United States to rethink its failed war on drugs</a>, to no avail.

  • Because Of The Fast And Furious Scandal

    In an attempt to track guns as they moved across the U.S.-Mexico border, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/atf-fast-furious-sg,0,3828090.storygallery">allowed smugglers to purchase weapons</a>. The ATF lost track of the guns and they wound up in the hands of drug cartels -- even as <a href="http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2012/09/11/atf-fast-and-furious-guns-appear-in-colombia/">far south as Colombia</a>.

  • Because American Politicians Refuse To Candidly Lead A Debate On Reforming Our Laws

    Though the subject of marijuana legalization regularly ranks among the most popular at the digital town halls President Obama takes part in, he <a href="http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/07/06/askobama-twitter-town-hall-ignores-flood-of-marijuana-legalization-questions/">declines to address the issue</a> or give it a <a href="http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2009/03/obama-addresses.html">thoughtful answer</a>. Incidentally, a younger Obama <a href="http://www.wusa9.com/news/article/229756/82/We-Need-To-Decriminalize-Our-Marijuana-Laws----Barack-Obama">supported marijuana decriminalization and a rethinking of the drug war</a>.

  • Because The U.S. Tortures Detainees In Cuba

    Almost 800 prisoners accused of terrorism have have been held at the <a href="http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/01/06/guantanamo-ten-years">U.S. military prison of Guantánamo</a>, Cuba, where they are detained indefinitely without facing trial. The United States has drawn international criticism from human rights defenders for subjecting the detainees there to torture and other cruel treatment. The Cuban government opposes hosting the U.S. naval base on its soil.

  • Because The U.S. Has The World's Largest Prison Population

    The United States has <a href="http://www.prb.org/Articles/2012/us-incarceration.aspx">the world's largest prison population</a> by far -- largely fed by the war on drugs -- at 500 per 100,000 people.

  • Because The U.S. Jails Undocumented Immigrants Guilty Of Civil Violations

    Because the United States <a href="http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/ExposeAndClose">imprisons roughly 400,000 immigrants</a> each year on civil violations.

  • Because The Border Patrol Kills Kids Who Throw Rocks

    The U.S. Border Patrol has come under fire for <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/26/border-patrol-killing-un_n_2018731.html">killing minors who were throwing rocks</a>.

  • Because The U.S. Recognized An Illegal Government In Venezuela

    When opponents of leftwing Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez briefly ousted him in 2002, the United States not only failed to condemn the coup, it <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/16/world/bush-officials-met-with-venezuelans-who-ousted-leader.html">praised the coup leaders</a>.

  • Because U.S. Extradition Undermines Justice In Colombia

    When Colombia demobilized the largest rightwing paramilitary organization in 2006, if offered lenient sentences to those who would offer details on the atrocities the AUC committed. But rather than facing justice in their home country, <a href="http://www.propublica.org/article/colombian-paramilitaries-extradited-to-u.s.-where-cases-are-sealed">Colombia has extradited several paramilitary leaders to the United States</a> to face drug trafficking charges -- marking it harder for people like Bela Henríquez to find out the details surrounding the murders of their loved ones. "More than anger, I feel powerless," Henriquez, whose father, Julio, was kidnapped and killed on the orders of one defendant, told ProPublica. "We don't know what they are negotiating, what conditions they are living under. What guarantee of justice do we have?"

  • Because The U.S. Helped Create Today's Cartels

    The U.S funded the Guatemalan military during the 1960s and 1970s anti-insurgency war, despite awareness of widespread human rights violations. Among the recipients of U.S military funding and training were the Kaibiles, a special force unit responsible for several massacres. Former <a href="http://ghrc-usa.org/Publications/factsheet_kaibiles.pdf" target="_hplink">Kaibiles have joined the ranks of the Zetas drug cartel</a>.

  • Because The U.S. Backed An Argentine Military Dictatorship That Killed 30,000 People

    The rightwing military dictatorship that took over Argentina in 1976 "disappeared" some 30,000 people, according to estimates by several human rights organizations. They subjected countless others to sadistic forms of torture and stole dozens of babies from mothers they jailed and murdered. The military junta carried out the so-called "Dirty War" with the <a href="http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB104/index.htm">full knowledge and support of the Nixon administration</a>.

  • Because The U.S. Helped Topple The Democratically Elected Government Of Salvador Allende

    When it became clear that socialist Salvador Allende would likely win the presidency in Chile, U.S. President Richard Nixon told the CIA to "make the economy scream" in order to "prevent Allende from coming to power or to unseat him," <a href="http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB8/nsaebb8i.htm">according to the National Security Archive</a>. Augusto Pinochet overthrew Allende in a bloody coup on Sept. 11, 1973, torturing and disappearing thousands of his political rivals with the backing of the U.S. government.

  • Because the U.S. Backed A Military Coup In Brazil In 1964

    The Brazilian military overthrew the democratically elected government of João Goulart in 1964, with the <a href="http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB118/index.htm">enthusiastic support of President Lyndon Johnson</a>, ushering in two decades of repressive government.

  • Because The U.S. Funded A Terrorist Group In Nicaragua

    The Reagan administration funded the Contra rebels against the Marxist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Regarded by many as terrorists, <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/1985-03-08/news/mn-32283_1_contras">the Contras murdered, tortured and raped civilians</a>. When human rights organizations reported on the crimes, the Reagan administration accused them of working on behalf of the Sandinistas.

  • Because The U.S. Helped Finance Atrocities In Colombia

    Through Plan Colombia, the U.S. has pumped over $6 billion into Colombia's military and intelligence service since 2002. The intelligence service has been disbanded for <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/national-security/us-aid-implicated-in-abuses-of-power-in-colombia/2011/06/21/gIQABrZpSJ_story.html">spying on the Supreme Court and carrying out smear campaigns</a> against the justices, as well as journalists, members of Congress and human rights activists. The military faces numerous allegations of human rights abuse, including the practice of killing non-combatants from poor neighborhoods and dressing them up as guerrillas to inflate enemy casualty statistics.

  • Because The U.S. Maintains A Trade Embargo Against Cuba Despite Opposition From The Entire World

    For 21 years, the <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/u-n-urges-end-u-cuba-embargo-21st-192516276.html">U.N. has condemned the U.S. embargo against Cuba</a> and for 21 years the United States has ignored it. Some 188 nations voted against the embargo this year, with only the U.S. itself, Israel, Palau opposing.

  • Because The U.S. Engineered A Coup Against The Democratically Elected Government Of Guatemala In 1954

    At the behest of United Fruit Company, a U.S. corporation with extensive holdings in Central America, the CIA helped engineer the overthrow of the Guatemalan government in 1954, ushering in decades of civil war that resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives.

  • Because The U.S. Backed The Salvadoran Military As It Committed Atrocities In The 1980s

    El Salvador's military <a href="http://www.pbs.org/itvs/enemiesofwar/elsalvador2.html">committed atrocities throughout the 1980s with U.S. funding</a>.

  • Because The U.S. Invaded Haiti and Occupied It For Almost 20 Years

    Woodrow Wilson ordered the Marines to <a href="http://history.state.gov/milestones/1914-1920/Haiti">invade and occupy Haiti in 1915</a> after the assassination of the Haitian president. The troops didn't leave until 1934.

  • Because The U.S. Invaded Haiti Again In 1994

    One invasion wasn't good enough. The U.S. <a href="http://wws.princeton.edu/research/cases/haiti.pdf">military returned in 1994</a>.

  • Because The U.S. Trained Military Leaders Who Committed Atrocities In Latin America

    The School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia, trained soldiers and generals responsible for massacres and torture of tens of thousands of Latin Americans, <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestoryamericas/2012/09/201292081054585410.html">according to Al Jazeera</a>.

  • Because The U.S. Backed Dictator Rafael Trujillo

    Rafael Trujillo Sr. (Photo by Hank Walker//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

  • Because The U.S. Invaded Cuba And Undermined The Island's Independence

    The so-called "Spanish-American War" began in 1868 with the first of a series of three wars for Cuban independence. In 1898, the U.S. got involved, invading Cuba and occupying the island after forcing Spain to give it. The United States then forced Cuba to <a href="http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=55">accept the odious Platt Amendent to its Constitution</a>, which allowed the United States to intervene in the country militarily and established the U.S. military base at Guantánamo.

  • Because The U.S. Colonized Puerto Rico

    As long as you're invading Cuba, <a href="http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/puerto-rico-invaded">why not take Puerto Rico</a> as well? The United States invaded in 1898 and the island remains a U.S. territory today.