Thursday, March 08, 2012

Transform join incredible line-up in global Google+ drug debate

On Tuesday 13 March, at 7pm, Transform will take part in the most high-profile public drug reform debate we've ever been invited to (and as far as we can tell, that has ever been staged). The event, "It's Time to end the War on Drugs", is being hosted by Google+ and the world's largest debating forum Intelligence². Steve Rolles, senior policy analyst and Danny Kushlick, head of external affairs, will join an eclectic mix of celebrities, public figures and politicians, speaking either for or against the title motion. Among them are Sir Richard Branson, Russell Brand, Julian Assange (unclear what his position is on this), author Misha Glenny, former president of Mexico Vincente Fox, Peter Hitchens from the Mail on Sunday, two senior figures from the UNODC, Geoffrey Robertson QC, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, and former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair. (For the full list of participants, see the event page.)

Overtly adversarial debates such as this aren't necessarily the best way to shed light on the issue - the aim seemingly being entertainment rather than illumination.  We ideally want to move beyond polarised viewpoints and have a more nuanced discussion that helps both sides of the reform debate find some common ground. Indeed, it's a bit of a shame that the Google+ debate describes the reform position as "liberalisation" when Transform and other groups are specifically calling for stricter and better regulation of drug markets (for more on this, see one of our past blog entries from 2007 which features an extract from our book on debating this issue). 

But that gripe aside, the event looks like it will generate significant exposure for the issue of drug policy reform and, we hope, Transform's work too (even if we're only able to make a limited contribution when on a bill with so many high-profile public figures). Google predict that tens of millions will see the event online, as they'll be promoting it on YouTube and various other sites.

Tickets for the event sold out immediately, but you can watch it live on the Google+ Versus YouTube page

For updates about the debate, follow the Google+ Versus account, which is posting relevant videos and links in advance of next Tuesday. Transform will also be tweeting about the event, so keep an eye on our Twitter account throughout the evening.

Below is some of the promotional blurb from the Intelligence²/Google+ event page:

"To liberalise or prohibit, that is the question. And to answer it the masters of live debate have joined forces with the masters of web technology to create a never-seen-before combination of Oxford debating and Silicon Valley prowess. 
Prohibitionists argue that legalising anything increases its consumption. The world has enough of a problem with legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco, so why add to the problem by legalising cannabis, cocaine and heroin?
The liberalisers say prohibition doesn’t work. By declaring certain drugs illegal we haven’t reduced consumption or solved any problem. Instead we’ve created an epidemic of crime, illness, failed states and money laundering.
Julian Assange and Richard Branson; Russell Brand and Misha Glenny; Geoffrey Robertson and Eliot Spitzer. Experts, orators and celebrities who’ve made this their cause – come and see them lock horns in a newIntelligence²/Google+ debate format. Some of our speakers will be on stage in London, others beamed in from Mexico City or São Paulo or New Orleans, all thanks to the “Hangout” tool on Google+.
The web will have its say, and so can you at the event in London. Be part of the buzz of the audience, be part of an event beamed across the web to millions. Come and witness the future of the global mind-clash at the first of ourVersus debates, live at Kings Place."


1 comment:

Macky Anderson said...

Well, I's better for me to watch their debate than joining them. I won't contribute anything. But this is really a must see debate, thanks for the information.