Museum of Drug Policy CDMX

The Museum of Drug Policy is a pop-up arts and cultural hub that highlights how drug policies impact and shape our communities. Through live programming and art, the Museum provides a powerful experience that illustrates the harmful consequences of current prohibitionist drug policies and advocates for new approaches rooted in dignity, health, and human rights. This free event transports audiences across the globe and pushes visitors to think and act outside the box. The Museum of Drug Policy is supported by the Open Society Foundations and was first launched in New York City in April 2016.

We aimed to create an experience that opened people’s hearts. The art in the exhibit powerfully challenged people to think more compassionately about drug policies and drug use. The pieces not only showed the harmful consequences of current drug policies, but also brought light into the darkness; they reimagined approaches to drug policy that are centered in public health and human rights. The artists protected the dignity of the many forgotten victims who lived and died as a consequence of the war on drugs. We learned that art and culture are critical weapons in the debate regarding drug policy.

This exhibit started with a jolt of energy. An eighteen foot long, seven foot high, one thousand pound sculpture by Mexican artist Eduardo Oblés had a dominant presence that evoked a visceral reaction, much like the war on drugs. There were several large-scale pieces, each demonstrating a complicated struggle of power. The powerful symbols, however, were in spaces that featured zero artwork. Throughout the Museum, there were several empty spaces to represent the victims of the war on drugs.

The exhibit had an international scope, from artwork created by Philadelphia-based artist Jesse Krimes on federal prison bed sheets to watercolor portraits of those who were executed in different regions of the world for being accused of various drug crimes. The Museum of Drug Policy in Mexico City was created in collaboration with local artists, whose work addressed the harmful effects of the war on drugs, and highlighted the positive harm reduction initiatives in Mexico such as: community-based services, needle exchange programs, and indigenous rights.

The show ended with an invitation to reimagine more just and compassionate policies.

The exhibit coincided with the Open Society Justice Initiative conference held at Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana. The conference focused on the need for an internationalized mechanism to address the continued failures of the Mexican justice system to prosecute grave crimes and corruption.