On 4/20, exhibit highlights drug policy issues near UN meeting on drugs

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The pop-up Museum on Drug Policy opened in New York on unofficial cannabis holiday as the UN holds a special session on issue for the first time in 18 years

While world leaders discussed global drug policy at a United Nations special session on drugs, a few blocks away was a notably more fashionable crowd of activists, artists and celebrities supporting the opening of the pop-up Museum on Drug Policy.

Held on the cavernous first floor of a midtown Manhattan high-rise, the museum is what its name implies: an exhibition space meant to highlight how drug policy impacts everything from availability of clean syringes for injection drug users to global incarceration.

The three-day exhibit is part of activism taking place across New York City, while the UN holds a special session on global drug policy for the first time in 18 years.

The drugs are put into our community, the opportunities are taken out, said Michael K Williams, an actor most famous for his role as Omar, a drug dealer in the HBO series The Wire, as he smoked a Parliament outside the space. Its like you put a piece of cheese in front of a mouse, and then you penalize him for eating the cheese. Its backwards.

The Museum of Drug Policy showcases artists, live music, and events. Photograph: Ricardo Nelson for the Open Society Foundations

A group of nongovernmental organizations, headed by billionaire George Soros Open Society Foundations, brought together the exhibit. The event was distinctly liberal, advocating for public health solutions and decriminalization of drugs to a receptive crowd of a few hundred.

The same day, the UN adopted policies that, while expected, maintained prohibition as the framework for international drug law.

The evening was headlined by Melissa Harris-Perry, editor-at-large for Elle, who live-streamed a new project called #NerdlandForever from the event space, focused on drug policy.

A lot of other countries have followed our lead, and become incarcerators, Harris-Perry told a crowd of hundreds Tuesday night, referring to American drug policy. These are dollars we could have spent on infrastructure, education hell, we could have spent them on any-damn-thing else.

Exhibition goers at the Museum of Drug Policy. Photograph: Ricardo Nelson for the Open Society Foundations

Between guests, John Fort, a Grammy-nominated former member of hip-hop group The Fugees, strummed the last song he wrote in federal prison on an acoustic guitar. Fort served seven years for a cocaine trafficking conviction, before he was pardoned by President George W Bush. The last song he wrote in prison, The Breaking of a Man, is also his favorite, he told the audience.

The wide range of work included a map of the availability of painkillers throughout the world illustrated with little red pills, strings of nearly 500 embroidered handkerchiefs strung overhead with the names of people disappeared in Mexico, and a mural created by former federal prisoner and artist Jesse Krimes.

Krimes meticulously printed the prison sheet mural by rubbing each image gently with a plastic spoon and hair gel. The artist said he shipped home each panel as soon as it was finished, because it would have been considered contraband in prison.

I never saw the whole thing until I came home from prison, Krimes said

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/apr/20/420-marijuana-exhibit-un-special-session-drug-policy