A panel of local experts will convene at noon Friday for an hour-long talk about drug reform as part of an ongoing series of discussions of societal issues and their impact on the community.
Deborah Snyder, peer recovery coach at Mental Health Partners; Peter Marcus, communications director for Terrapin Care Station, a national cannabis company with roots in Boulder, and Stephen Bross, life coach, activist and cofounder of Folsom Funny Farm, a spiritual community in Boulder, will meet virtually via Zoom to talk about the complexities of drugs and drug reform, according to the event’s website. The panel will be moderated by Kimberly Braun, development director at Homeless Outreach Providing Encouragement, or HOPE for Longmont.
“The main focus is on systems and the challenges that come about when a system reinforces discrimination and makes it difficult for all move forward once they make a mistake,” Braun said, adding drug reform is only one example of a whole array of interrelated issues. “We are letting it be the place to open the discussion.”
Marcus, a former journalist who has twice been named one of the top state-based political and legislative reporters in the nation by The Washington Post, said the cannabis industry has fallen short when it comes to righting the wrongs of a failed drug war.
“We did not do enough, especially in Colorado, to provide opportunity to those who were disproportionately targeted by the war on drugs. Homelessness is often a symptom of this war,” he said. “For those with enough privilege to escape a drug crime, life goes on. For those people of color who are targeted by a drug war and then arrested and prosecuted in that war, life can turn fast.”
Black people are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana use, despite consuming at an equal rate to whites, and people who have been incarcerated more than once are 13 times more likely than the general public to experience homelessness, Marcus said.
“I hope that people walk away with an understanding that when we talk marijuana legalization, it's not just money and corporations. It's much deeper than that,” he said of Friday’s discussion.
The panel is an opportunity for difficult topics to be discussed safely, Braun said.
“(My hope is) to increase the awareness of the complexity of the issues, and thus increase the education; to offer a chance for the community to come together around the topic and as an offshoot to create more collaboration, more connections and inevitably new ways to look at things leading to new solutions,” she said.
Friday’s event is part of a larger effort to bring together community members and local organizations to discuss issues that impact the community, as well as to increase awareness about HOPE and its work in Longmont.
“We want to keep serving our homeless, and also be a part of the solution by way of programming and by way of being a voice in the community,” Braun said.
Eighty participants joined the last panel session hosted by HOPE and attendance at past events has included city council members, leaders of other nonprofits and local residents.To register for the free event, click here.