03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Turning the Corner on Drug Law Reform

A week ago I was in the Bay Area, touring medical marijuana dispensaries in Oakland and Berkeley, speaking to the Sausalito Rotary Club, visiting with police and elected officials, and addressing NORML's annual conference. (Special thanks to the extraordinary Carol Ruth Silver, former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, close friend of the late Harvey Milk, and LEAP speaker extraordinaire for opening doors around the city.)

Sunday night, I spoke at the Sydney Opera House, the first in a month-long, 60-event tour of Australia.

Around the globe, drug policy reform experts and organizations are being swamped by demands for speeches, white papers, interviews. Fellow speakers at Law Enforcement Against Prohibition ( have never been busier. We've been churning out on-demand op-eds for new and old media alike, giving talks to service clubs, universities, police officials, and lawmakers throughout North America and beyond. Our executive director, recently returned from The Netherlands, is off to Brazil mid-month.

It's not hard to understand the reasons for all this reform agitation: dismal economic conditions; impossible pressures on the criminal justice system (especially our overpopulated prisons); escalating fears of drug cartel violence, and their insidious, expanding influence; and moral outrage at the damage the drug war has done our families and communities. Also, I have to say, there's been a remarkable surge of old-fashioned common sense as more and more people awaken to the ruinous nature of our drug laws.

Many Australians are acutely aware that the U.S. is and has been since 1971 the chest-thumping, fist-banging four-star general in the global war on drugs. The Aussies' resentment is palpable, their willingness to stand up to our bullying ways growing.

The same can be said for Mexico, Argentina, and Colombia, all of which have moved recently to decriminalize drug possession cases. And for Brazil and Ecuador, which seem poised to do likewise.