Support all your favorite nonprofits with a single donation.Donate safely, anonymously & monthly, in any amount. It's a smarter way to give online. Learn more
The Drug Policy Alliance Network (DPA Network) is the nation’s leading organization promoting policy alternatives to the drug war that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.
Our supporters are individuals who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. Together we advance policies that reduce the harms of both drug misuse and drug prohibition, and seek solutions that promote safety while upholding the sovereignty of individuals over their own minds and bodies. We work to ensure that our nation’s drug policies no longer arrest, incarcerate, disenfranchise and otherwise harm millions of nonviolent people. Our work inevitably requires us to address the disproportionate impact of the drug war on people of color.
The Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bipartisan amendment today, 18 to 12, allowing Veterans Administration (VA) doctors to recommend medical marijuana to their patients in states where medical marijuana is legal. The vote is the first time the U.S. Senate has ever moved marijuana law reform legislation forward.
“Veterans in medical marijuana states should be treated the same as any other resident, and should be able to discuss marijuana with their doctor and use it if it’s medically necessary,” said Michael Collins, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. “They have served this country valiantly, so the least we can do is allow them to have full and open discussions with their doctors.”
The Veterans Equal Access Amendment was sponsored by Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana and Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. It was added in committee to a must-pass military construction and veterans affairs spending bill. The bill is certain to pass on the Senate floor.
“Veterans see this victory as a major step forward in restoring our first amendment rights within the VA,” said TJ Thompson, a disabled Navy veteran. “This will allow for a safe, open dialogue between providers and patients, and allows veterans to be treated the same as any other patient.”
Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) specifically prohibits its medical providers from completing forms brought by their patients seeking recommendations or opinions regarding participation in a state medical marijuana program. The Daines / Merkley amendment authorizes VA physicians and other health care providers to provide recommendations and opinions regarding the use of medical marijuana to veterans who live in medical marijuana states.
In 2002, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in Conant v. Walters the right of physicians to recommend medical marijuana, regardless of its illegality under federal law, as well as the right of patients to receive accurate information. The Daines / Merkley amendment supports that first amendment right and restores a healthy doctor-patient relationship.
There are numerous federal healthcare programs besides the VA such as Medicaid, Medicare, and CHIP – but only the VA prohibits physicians from discussing and recommending medical marijuana to their patients. A Medicare patient may freely discuss medical marijuana use with her doctor, while a returning veteran is denied the same right.
Studies have shown that medical marijuana can help treat post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, illnesses typically suffered by veterans. A 2014 study of people with PTSD showed a greater than 75% reduction in severity of symptoms when patients were using marijuana to treat their illness, compared to when they were not.
Last year the U.S. House voted five times in favor of letting states set their own marijuana policies. One of the amendments, prohibiting the Justice Department from spending any money in Fiscal Year 2015 undermining state medical marijuana laws, made it into the final spending bill signed into law by President Obama. Advocates of the veterans amendment believe it has a very good chance of making it into the final military construction spending bill that President Obama signs.
A legislative version of the Daines / Merkley amendment was included in groundbreaking Senate medical marijuana legislation introduced in March. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act is the first-ever bill in the U.S. Senate to legalize marijuana for medical use and the most comprehensive medical marijuana bill ever introduced in Congress. The bill was introduced by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and generated enormous interest.
With the Appropriations Committee approving one element in the bill, supporters say it is time for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on the full bill.
“The politics around marijuana have shifted in recent years, yet Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley hasn’t held a hearing on the issue,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “We will move the CARERS Act piece by piece if we have to but now is the time for the Senate to hold a hearing on the bill as a whole.”Author:
Date Published: May 21, 2015
Published by Drug Policy Alliance
Lawmakers in Louisiana took a major step toward reforming the state’s harsh marijuana possession law when the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to reform the state’s harsh marijuana possession law. If passed, Louisiana would join the growing number of states that have recently reduced penalties for small amounts of marijuana.
“This is a long-sought opportunity to take a more compassionate and commonsense approach to marijuana,” said Yolande Cadore, director of strategic partnerships at the Drug Policy Alliance. “Louisiana's overdue for a major overhaul of its drug policies and this is a good first step."
The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world – and Louisiana has the highest rate in the U.S. Louisiana’s incarceration rate has doubled in the last twenty years and is nearly five times higher than Iran's, 13 times higher than China's and 20 times higher than Germany's. One of the key drivers of Louisiana’s world-leading incarceration rate is the war on drugs – 18,000 Louisiana residents are arrested for drug law violations each year.
According to a 2013 report by the American Civil Liberties Union, Louisiana suffers from some of the worst racial disparities in marijuana enforcement of any state in the U.S. Black Louisianans are arrested for marijuana possession at 3 times the rate as their white counterparts, despite the fact that black and white people use and sell marijuana at similar rates.
One tragic case in Louisiana is that of Bernard Noble, a father of seven, who is serving 13 years behind bars after he was arrested for possessing 2 joints of marijuana. Mr. Noble had two prior minor drug offenses more than 10 years earlier and because of Louisiana’s habitual offender law, the “third strike” gave him a mandatory sentence of 13 years of hard labor behind bars.
“The opportunity for redemption is to be applauded and signals that a run-in with the law shouldn’t be a burden one carries her entire life," said Jee Park, Deputy Chief Defender at Orleans Public Defenders. “Criminal penalties and the social and economic barriers they create are major hurdles for many families in Louisiana and need to be removed.”
According to a 2014 survey conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union, the majority of Louisianans are in favor of marijuana sentencing reform.
An August 2013 Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey found that 56% of likely voters favor citing individuals for simple marijuana possession over arresting them. The same poll found that 64% said they are against strict penalties for repeat offenders.
"It's outrageous to punish marijuana possession so severely when a clear majority of Louisiana voters support reducing criminal penalties for it," added Cadore. "It's a relief to see that smart policymakers are starting to recognize this political reality."Author:
Date Published: May 20, 2015
Published by Drug Policy Alliance
Carl Hart, PhD, a neuroscientist and associate professor of psychology and psychiatry at Columbia University, whose work has redefined how people are discussing addiction, is today releasing two more groundbreaking and deeply compelling talks, one before a TEDMED audience in Northern California; and another a special Telephone Town Hall attended by hundreds of advocates, policymakers, faith leaders and medical professionals, and covered by Ebony.com, the leading African American news and lifestyle site.
Dr. Hart’s TEDMED Talk brilliantly dispels the myths about drugs, and drug use and drug misuse—and how Black and poor communities in particular have been harmed as a result of our misinformation. It serves as a perfect companion to Hart’s unflinching, eye-opening and best-selling memoir, High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society (HarperCollins, 2013), which won the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. In High Price, Hart argues forcefully that what plagued poor Black communities during the 1980s was less crack-cocaine, than it was unemployment, racism and hopelessness.
"Today would have been Malcolm X’s 90th birthday. His influence on human rights is increasingly apparent as society become more concerned about issues of over-policing in Black communities,” said Dr. Carl Hart. “My TED talk is particularly important today because it illustrates the detrimental impact of aggressive selective drug law enforcement on Black communities. It shows how drug-related harms have been exaggerated, and that this has helped create an environment where unjustified police killings are more likely to occur."
Last Thursday, Dr. Hart who is a board member of the Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s most highly regarded organization promoting alternatives to our current drug policies, participated in a Telephone Town Hall series hosted by DPA’s asha bandele, in which he spoke directly to parents—as the father of three Black sons—about how to mitigate the dangers of teen engagement with drugs. “[My] number one concern [about my children and drugs] is with the police.” Hart explained that while drug effects are actually predictable, contrary to mythology, how police treat young Black people, is not.
Date Published: May 19, 2015
Published by Drug Policy Alliance
The California-based Lightning in a Bottle festival is breaking new ground in the United States by taking a comprehensive harm reduction approach to drug use at its event. It is the only festival in the U.S. to offer both peer-led drug education and mental health services onsite, communicate about those services to its attendees, and evaluate their effectiveness post-event.
The festival, set to take place this Memorial Day weekend (May 21-25) at the San Antonio Recreation Area in Bradley, California, offers harm reduction services through the organizations DanceSafe and the Zendo Project. DanceSafe is a public health organization working since 1998 mostly within the electronic dance music community to promote non-judgmental health and safety information, ranging from safer sex and “protect your hearing” resources to straightforward drug education that explains drug effects and safer use practices honestly. The Zendo Project is a group of trained therapists and volunteers who assist festivalgoers undergoing a difficult psychological experience, whether drug-related or not. They set up a separate “safe space” apart from main festival areas, and often work in tandem with onsite medical teams.
“We make every effort to be a drug-free event,” say festival organizer Dede Flemming. “But we also know it’s not possible for any festival to be 100% drug-free, just like it’s not possible for any city or country to be 100% drug-free. We are looking for better ways to keep our attendees safe, and a harm reduction approach is the best way to do that.”
While Lightning in a Bottle has had both DanceSafe and the Zendo Project onsite in previous years, for 2015 they are taking the added step of more actively communicating to their attendees about these services. This comes as a result of a partnership with the Drug Policy Alliance’s Music Fan program, which focuses on expanding progressive approaches to drug use in nightlife and festival settings.
“Having harm reduction services at an event is an important step,” says Stefanie Jones, nightlife community engagement manager at the Drug Policy Alliance. “But unless you let attendees know they’re there and what they’re for, you miss an opportunity to see those services reach their full potential.”
As part of Lightning in a Bottle’s expanded effort to communicate to its attendees they have added a “Harm Reduction” section to the “Ethos” page of their website, and will link to the page in a newsletter they send to attendees. In addition, the Zendo Project will hold a basic training about its services open to festival attendees on Friday, May 22 from 4:30 – 5:50pm at the Pineal Playground section of the event.
As festivals continue to grow in popularity, there are more people in these environments who may choose to use drugs. Simultaneously, the drug market has become riskier, as producers create new substances to skirt drug laws. This confluence of circumstances has led to a rise in drug-related deaths and hospitalizations at festivals in the United States.
While Lightning in a Bottle has not seen the deaths and hospitalizations that other festivals have, they agree with DanceSafe, Zendo Project and the Drug Policy Alliance that integrating harm reduction is a smart approach to keep on this path. To build evidence for this approach the festival has agreed to work with Mutual Aid Response Services (MARS), a risk management consulting company, to conduct an evaluation of the onsite harm reduction services. A brief post-event report will look at how well coordinated these services are with medical, security and law enforcement, how well known and used they are by attendees, and improvements for the future.
“We just want to keep people safe, happy and out of the medical tent,” says Flemming. “We’re pleased to be working with groups like DanceSafe, Zendo Project, MARS and the Drug Policy Alliance to help us make that happen.”
For more information, please contact Stefanie Jones, head of the Drug Policy Alliance Music Fan program.
Lightning in a Bottle website: http://www.lightninginabottle.org
Groups supporting harm reduction efforts at Lightning in a Bottle:
Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) Music Fan: http://www.drugpolicy.org/musicfan
Mutual Aid Response Services (MARS): http://www.mars911.info
Zendo Project: http://www.facebook.com/zendoproject
Date Published: May 19, 2015
Published by Drug Policy Alliance
Your Dose of Pop is DPA’s contribution to a balanced media diet. We generally disseminate serious news about the serious disaster that is the drug war. However, a good deal of public opinion is shaped by the happenings in entertainment and culture, which makes them worth commenting on. Story ideas are always welcome. You can submit them mfranqui [at] drugpolicy [dot] org (subject: Your%20Dose%20of%20Pop) (here).
Here’s the latest skinny.
Nirvana Documentary Doesn’t Suck
Growing up a teen in the 90’s, there is no other band that captured the thrill and angst of the time like Nirvana. Front man Kurt Cobain battled his demons in and out of his music and was also known for his anarchistic relationship with Courtney Love and their shared problematic drug use.
I initially side-eyed the announcement of the documentary release, and figured, let the corporate scrubbing commence – or so I thought.
Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck premiered on HBO on May 4 and was produced by Cobain and Love’s only daughter, Frances Bean Cobain. It’s all there, the mental torment and spiraling addiction; Cobain is humanized and gifted to us through never-seen-before home videos and powerful storytelling. The film is harrowing and uncomfortably intimate. It punches you in the gut and makes you fall in love with the music all over again. See it.
Morgan Freeman Breaks the Internet
Well, kind of sort of.
He’s been trending all week because of comments in an article published in The Daily Beast on the benefits of medical marijuana. As most of us know, the Oscar-winning and beloved actor from films such as Shawshank Redemption and Glory, suffered severe injuries to his arm and shoulder in a car accident in Mississippi seven years ago.
Luckily for all of us, Freeman recovered but has been in a great deal of pain since then. He says, “Marijuana has many useful uses. I have fibromyalgia pain in this arm, and the only thing that offers any relief is marijuana.”
The Drug Policy Alliance posted this photo on Facebook with the quote from the article and it’s reached over 3 million views.
But the appointed voice of God didn’t stop there. On the subject of legalization he says, “My first wife got me into it many years ago. How do I take it? However it comes! I’ll eat it, drink it, smoke it, snort it! This movement is really a long time coming, and it’s getting legs—longer legs. Now, the thrust is understanding that alcohol has no real medicinal use. Maybe if you have one drink it’ll quiet you down, but two or three and you’re fucked.”
We love you Mr. Freeman!
And the Father of the Year Award Goes to…
Hollywood action star Jackie Chan outmaneuvers a sense of compassion these days, even for his own son. Early in 2015, Jaycee Chan was sentenced to six months in a Chinese jail for marijuana possession in his home and for the more serious offense of "providing a shelter for others to abuse drugs."
When asked about his son’s arrest and conviction, Jackie Chan, who is also Singapore's first celebrity anti-drug ambassador, said he felt "ashamed" and that he was now more focused on his son, who he thought was a man, but is really “still a boy.”
Moreover, he doubled down on his anti-drug rhetoric and expressed support for the death penalty in certain drug offenses. At a time when the world is still reeling from Indonesia’s callous execution of 8 people for this very thing, Chan should be using his celebrity to push for compassion and treatment noting that these unconscionable laws do not reduce the availability of drugs in China or other countries, or protect people from drug abuse.
Let’s hope Jackie comes to his senses soon, for his sake and his son’s.
Melissa Franqui is the communications coordinator at the Drug Policy Alliance.
Date Published: May 14, 2015
Published by Drug Policy Alliance
Trenton—To commemorate Hepatitis Testing Day, the Hepatitis C Action Campaign coalition and patient advocates are urging the General Assembly to approve and Governor Christie to sign Senate Bill 876 / Assembly Bill 2555, which would require hospitals and health care professionals to offer hepatitis C testing to people born between 1945 and 1965. Three quarters of individuals with hepatitis C are in this age group and the vast majority are unaware that they are infected with the virus. The legislation would also authorize certain laboratories to perform rapid hepatitis C testing. Senate Bill 876 was approved by the full Senate early this year and its companion, Assembly Bill 2555, is awaiting consideration by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee.
Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease spread when blood from a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected to the blood of an infected person. If left untreated, hepatitis C can cause extensive liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and ultimately death. Because it has no symptoms people often go for decades without discovering they are infected, allowing the virus to progress untreated and with devastating consequences. Early diagnosis can improve health outcomes and facilitate access to curative treatments.
“This legislation is urgently needed,” said Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Hepatitis C is a silent killer that must be stopped. Because people often don’t show symptoms for many years, most people are unaware they are infected. Expanded testing is needed so people know their status and can act to get care and treatment.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone born between 1945 and 1965 get tested for hepatitis C. African Americans and veterans also have substantially higher rates of hepatitis C infection. More people now die from hepatitis C than die from HIV/AIDS in the United States. Without concerted action, the CDC predicts that deaths from hepatitis C will double or even triple in the next 20 years. Widespread testing will enable those infected to receive life-saving treatment and prevent transmission to others.
“By incorporating Hep C testing into regular medical care we diminish the stigma of the disease, educate people about their status and prevent the transmission to others. Most importantly, we connect people to treatment before this terrible disease wreaks havoc on their body,” said Senator Joseph F. Vitale (D-Middlesex), Chairman Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “I am hopeful that my colleagues in the Assembly take this bill up before the Legislature goes on summer recess.”The month of May is designated as Hepatitis Awareness Month in the United States and
May 19th is Hepatitis Testing Day. During May, the CDC and groups like the American Liver Foundation work to raise awareness surrounding this silent killer and encourage those most at risk to get tested.
Lisa Gallipoli, Executive Director of the Greater New York Division of the American Liver Foundation, which serves North Jersey, said “When it comes to Hepatitis C it is simple – Treat – Test- Cure! It has never been more important to TEST – find out who has Hep C; TREAT – get those with Hep C on treatment; CURE – Hep C is CURABLE for over 90% of the individuals who receive treatment. This legislation would do just that!”
Dr. Andrew N. de la Torre MD, FACS, a liver transplant surgeon and Director of the Liver, Pancreas & Biliary Surgery at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, said “I cannot think of a justifiable reason not to pass this bill. It would be a huge opportunity to save thousands of lives that are lost to liver failure and liver cancer. Even though the cost to treat hepatitis C seems expensive, it is far more expensive and painful to treat and watch patients die from liver failure or advanced liver cancer. Even after receiving a liver transplant, patients require treatment for Hep C; so why not treat them earlier and possibly avoid the need for and costs of a liver transplant?”
Senate Bill 876 is sponsored by Senator Joe Vitale (D-Middlesex), Senator Richard Codey (D-Essex and Morris) and Senator Fred Madden (D-Camden and Gloucester). The Assembly companion, A2555, is sponsored by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Hunterdon and Mercer).
The Hepatitis C Action Campaign and Senate Bill 876 / Assembly Bill 2555 are supported by a coalition of patients, physicians, and public health, nonprofit, and advocacy organizations, including the New Jersey office of the Drug Policy Alliance, the Hepatitis C Association, the Greater New York and Mid-Atlantic Divisions of the American Liver Foundation, the South Jersey AIDS Alliance, the North Jersey Community Research Initiative (NJCRI), Paterson Counseling Center, Camden AHEC, Hyacinth AIDS Foundation, Well of Hope Community Development Corporation, Inc., Comprehensive Liver Care of New Jersey, Iris House, Buddies of New Jersey, Inc., PROCEED, Inc., African American Office of Gay Concerns, Hepatitis Foundation International, Vietnam Veterans of America, The Wave Set, National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center (Camden), Atlantic Gastroenterology Associates, and Trinitas Regional Medical Center – Early Intervention Program.Author:
Date Published: May 14, 2015
Published by Drug Policy Alliance
Correction: A previous version of this press release referred to upcoming Senate confirmation hearings. Since this appointment is only for an “acting” DEA Administrator, however, it does not require Senate approval. An updated version of today’s press release is below.
A senior F.B.I. official and former U.S. attorney, Chuck Rosenberg, has been selected by President Obama as acting director of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Rosenberg has served as the chief of staff to the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, for the past 18 months.
Outgoing DEA head Michele Leonhart announced her retirement last month in the wake of numerous scandals. She came under intense criticism for opposing the Obama administration’s efforts to reform mandatory minimum sentencing laws, and for opposing the administration’s hands-off approach in the four states that have approved legal regulation of marijuana.
The DEA has existed for more than 40 years but little attention has been given to the role the agency has played in fueling mass incarceration, racial disparities, the surveillance state, and other drug war problems. Congress has rarely scrutinized the agency, its actions or its budget, instead showing remarkable deference to the DEA’s administrators. That has started to change recently, and Leonhart’s departure was seen as an opportunity to appoint someone who will overhaul the agency and support reform.
“The new DEA chief has a tough job ahead,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Let’s hope he’s in line with the political consensus in favor of scaling back mass incarceration and the worst harms of the drug war.”The Drug Policy Alliance’s online campaign has raised awareness of the damage the DEA is causing, and the organization and its allies have been working with members of Congress to cut the agency’s budget and reduce its power.
Just today, DPA placed a mock “Help Wanted” ad in Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call that highlights the major flaws with Leonhart’s regime – and that lays out all the problems that the next DEA administrator must try to avoid. The tongue-in-cheek ad sought a new head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to “prolong the failed war on drugs,” with primary areas of job responsibility to include “Mass Incarceration,” “Police State Tactics,” “Obstruction of Science,” “Subverting Democracy” and “Undermining Human Rights.”
“Drug prohibition, like alcohol Prohibition, breeds crime, corruption, and violence – and creates a situation where law enforcement officers must risk their lives in a fight that can’t be won,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “It’s time to reform not just the DEA but broader U.S. and global drug policy. The optimal drug policy would reduce the role of criminalization and the criminal justice system in drug control to the greatest extent possible, while protecting public safety and health.”
DPA also recently released a new issue brief, The Scandal-Ridden DEA: Everything You Need to Know. The brief covers numerous DEA scandals, including the massacre of civilians in Honduras, the inappropriate use of NSA resources to spy on U.S. citizens and the use of fabricated evidence to cover it up, the warrantless tracking of billions of U.S. phone calls, and the misuse of confidential informants. The brief notes that the traditional U.S. drug policy goal of using undercover work, arrests, prosecutions, incarceration, interdiction and source-country eradication to try to make America "drug-free" has failed to substantially reduce drug use or drug-related harms. It instead has created problems of its own – broken families, increased poverty, racial disparities, wasted tax dollars, prison overcrowding and eroded civil liberties.
Even as U.S. states, Congress, and the Obama Administration move forward with marijuana legalization, sentencing reform, and other drug policy reforms, the DEA has fought hard to preserve the failed policies of the past. Last year, Leonhart publicly rebuked President Obama for saying that marijuana is as safe as alcohol, told members of Congress that the DEA will continue to go after marijuana even in states where it is legal despite DOJ guidance stating otherwise, and spoke out against bipartisan drug sentencing reform in Congress that the Obama administration is supporting.
The DEA also has a long history of obstructing scientific research and refusing to acknowledge established science, as chronicled in a report by DPA and MAPS last year, The DEA: Four Decades of Impeding and Rejecting Science. DEA administrators, including Leonhart, have on several occasions ignored research and overruled the DEA’s own administrative law judges on the medical uses of marijuana and MDMA.
In a recent report the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General found that the DEA withheld information and obstructed investigations. In a hearing last week senators grilled the DEA for failing to provide information and answer basic questions. “It’s been now eight months — I still don’t have a response from DEA to these questions,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley said. “When we don’t get responses to our letters, that colors our view of the agency — particularly when we’re writing about a constituent who suffered from a real lapse in process,” Senator Diane Feinstein said.
Last year Congress passed a spending limitation amendment prohibiting the DEA from undermining state marijuana laws. It was signed into law by President Obama, but expires later this year. The U.S. House also approved two amendments prohibiting the DEA from interfering with state hemp laws. An amendment to shift $5 million from the agency to a rape kit testing program passed overwhelmingly. Numerous hearings have already been held this year scrutinizing the agency. Reformers say more amendments, bills, and hearings are on the way.
For more background, including DPA’s reports, press releases, op-eds and news articles, see: drugpolicy.org/DEAAuthor:
Date Published: May 13, 2015
Published by Drug Policy Alliance
He is gone far too soon.
Having been appointed to the Senate in 1993, at the age of 42, Senator Nolin devoted his career to public service, working tirelessly for the good of the people and for the betterment of our country. He was indeed a loyal Conservative, but also fiercely independent; always on the right side of an issue, and for the right reason. He was never afraid to take on challenges he believed in whole heartedly.
In the past week I have had numerous conversations about Senator Nolin – the commonality always being that he was an incredibly fair, honest and open minded gentleman, who was fuelled by his passion for parliament and his love of the institution.
His commitment to drug policy reform was evidenced through his work with the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, and as Chair of the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs – with its recommendations to legalize the use of cannabis in Canada, in 2002. He decreed that there was much scientific evidence indicating that cannabis is substantially less harmful than alcohol and that it should be treated not as a criminal issue but as a social and public health issue. More than a decade later, it remains very much an important and relevant issue in North America.
In 2003, Senator Nolin and I, along with Philip Owen were co-recipients of the Richard J. Dennis Drugpeace Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Drug Policy. It was humbling to be considered in the same regard with people I admired and respected.
It was a privilege to call him a colleague, and an honour to call him a friend. His leadership in the Senate will be sorely missed.
Larry Campbell is a member of the Canadian Senate and the board of directors of the Drug Policy Alliance.
Date Published: May 13, 2015
Published by Drug Policy Alliance