The Drug Policy Alliance

The Drug Policy Alliance

The Drug Policy Alliance is the nation’s leading organization for the promotion of alternative legislation on drug policy. Its reform ideals are based on human rights, science, health and compassion.

Mission Statement

The DPA’s mission is to assist in the development of new drug policy initiatives that promote sensible drug reform and alter current drug policies that are harmful or excessive. DPA has helped hundreds of thousands of people that were facing jail time avert incarceration and treatment programs. DPA also works to shape the perception of drug users. For instance, DPA assists those that use drugs such as medicinal marijuana and works to ensure they are not viewed as a criminal. As a result of new policy reforms, states such as California have saved more than $2.5 billion by eliminating ineffective laws and procedures. DPA’s ultimate vision is to create a world where people are not prosecuted for the substances that they choose to put in their bodies.

The History of Alliance

The DPA was founded in July 2000 as a result of merging the Lindesmith Center, a drug policy think-tank and the Drug Policy Alliance. The Drug Policy Foundation was founded in 1987 by a professor at American University, Arnold S. Trebach JD PhD, and an attorney, Kevin Zeese, who was the former director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Together, they introduced a number of initiatives for drug reform along with a regular publication, and an awards program to recognize noteworthy drug reform policies.

The Lindesmith organization, on the other hand, was founded in 1994 by a professor of politics at Princeton University, Ethan Nadelmann JD, PhD, who had written a number of papers on drug policy. The two organizations, Lindesmith and the Drug Policy Foundation, merged on July 1, 2000 and began operating as the Drug Policy Alliance. It’s supporters are both varied  and affluent, and come from a number of industries. Arianna Huffington, Russell Simmons and Sting are some examples of its supporters, just to name a few.

Policy Advanced by the Alliance

DPA has advanced several projects since 2000. One of its most recent projects is its participation in the Rhode Island decriminalization project, which successfully played a part in urging Governor Chafee to sign the marijuana decriminalization bill.

Another recent accomplishment was sparking the debate about drug policy reform in Latin America. As a result of DPA’s lobbying, several presidents in Latin America including Colombia, Costa Rica and Guatemala began to discuss decriminalizing marijuana. Guatemalan President, Otto Perez Molina, garnered worldwide attention after delivering a speech about the decriminalization of marijuana.

The most recent accomplishment in 2012, however, was the passing of the Good Samaritan law in California, which encourages people to call 911 during an overdose in exchange for immunity or a low-level drug violation charge.

Future Projects

Future DPA projects entail the legalization of marijuana in the United States. This undertaking has been divided into two projects. The first is focused on urging President Obama to end the federal criminalization of marijuana, which in some cases overrides state laws such as in California and Colorado. The second part urges people to contact their legislators in hopes of garnering support for the federal bill that would end federal marijuana prohibition.

Additional Resources


Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance.

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