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DPA Reform Conference Roundup: Notes from Day Two of the Year’s Biggest Cannabis Conference

It’s the second day of the DPA Reform conference in D.C. Here are the biggest news stories from the day’s action.

 

Sorry About Buddie and Those Rat Cages

One of the more admirable trends at this year’s DPA Reform Conference outside Washington D.C. has been the public mea culpas offered by those behind some recent spectacular misfires in the cannabis world.

Yesterday we covered the verbal flogging of Ian James, director of the failed Responsible Ohio campaign and promoter of Buddie, the worst mascot in the history of politics.

Today’s owning-up came courtesy of Dr. Larry Wolk, director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Remember those giant rat cages that Colorado put on college campuses around the state last year? They were part of the “Don’t Be A Lab Rat” campaign to prevent cannabis use among minors. Worthy goal, terrible execution. Wolk didn’t create the cages, but he did okay the campaign. “If nothing else, I thought it would stimulate conversation,” he said. “Well, young people embraced the campaign as a great opportunity to take selfies getting high in the cages.”

Lesson learned. “Our next youth campaign began with conversations and focus groups with young people,” Wolk said. This time around, the message the under-21 set chose was simple and without gimmick. The “What’s Next?” campaign asks minors to consider how cannabis use might get in the way of their job, relationship, or the next step they want to take in their lives. “Has anybody over 40 seen it?” he asked, of a room full of over-40s. “No? Good. We’re only circulating this on youth sites. And in three weeks we’ve had over two million views.”

 

A Sneak Peek at Colorado Use Trends

Speaking of Colorado, many conference-goers are anxious to see data from Colorado and Washington State on use trends among adults and minors. Wolk, who has the job of overseeing the health of both groups statewide, said he’d taken a look at preliminary surveys to make sure there wasn’t a spike that needed immediate attention, and “so far there’s no fire burning.” Though he couldn’t quote numbers, he said “we’re not seeing a significant increase in youth use. Or in adult use, either.”

 

Roger Roffman’s Grand Idea

Roger Roffman, emeritus professor of social work at the University of Washington and one of the deans of American cannabis research, is cooking up an interesting project. He wants to supercharge the product education of consumers at the point of sale. Working with Washington State’s Coalition for Cannabis Standards and Ethics (CCSE), Roffman is talking with scientists and retailers to develop a staff training model that would widen the scope of a budtender’s knowledge. “The retailer could be an active educator of the consumer,” said Roffman, in a way that goes beyond a description of strain qualities.

This is already being done by some budtenders, of course, but the CCSE program could result in a kind of state-limited certification. “We’ve got 17 retailers signed up for a pilot test, and we’re hoping to get 25 to 30 by the time we start,” Roffman said.

 

Heavy Chatter

Wrapping up our recap is a roundup of topics and talking points that gained attention today:

  • There’s a lot of talk at this year’s conference about Black Lives Matter and the intersection of the drug war with America’s problems of institutional racism and mass incarceration.
  • What might (but probably won’t) come out of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs, a once-every-15 years convocation scheduled for New York in April 2016?
  • How can we find ways to move the financial benefits of cannabis legalization into communities of color disproportionately impacted by the drug war?
  • And, of course, there was much talk about the presidential race and how little interest the candidates have in legalization issues, as well as the game-changing prospects for California’s legalization campaign in 2016.

Don't miss Day 1 of our DPA Reform conference coverage:

Is it the End of the “End of the War on Drugs’?